When people first walk up to Inspire Academy, they sense something is different. The school is a hidden treasure on East Sixteenth Street, out of the view of the greater city, but perfectly situated for ease of access to families with young children, with a bus stop and public housing on one side and a bike trail on the other side. The grounds of Inspire Academy quickly give a taste of our values. Students can play together on an inclusive playground with poured rubber surfacing that allows students with wheelchairs and riding toys to play along side those on foot, or students can sit and read a book under a shade tree by the Little Free Library. You may find PE students or neighbors exercising on the historic cinder track behind the school, or students playing kickball in an old baseball diamond or soccer in a field. Continue walking along, and you’ll stumble upon an Outdoor Learning Lab that includes wetlands, prairie lands, and newly planted woodlands, a microcosm of Indiana’s natural habitat before industrialization occurred. Students regularly use the Outdoor Learning Lab to conduct scientific studies, engage in outdoor exploration, or build a sense of community in nature together.
As soon as someone steps inside the building, their sense of something being different is confirmed by happy greetings, engaged students, and displays of meaningful student work. But there is something deeper going on, and that something is students from different walks of life are learning to experience the world from each other’s perspectives and working together to make the world a more just and equitable place for each other for years to come. One Inspire alumni, Haley Baugues, puts it best in her recent college application essay:
“Everyone’s sense of the world expands the older they get, but for me it happened almost instantaneously. Due to boredom with the standard curriculum, I decided to switch to Inspire Academy, a small new inner city school that was offering a more hands-on style of learning. I remember an instant culture shock. I’d never interacted with such a diverse group of people before. As my relationships with my peers grew into friendships, I started to see the world as it truly is. Unjust. ... I spent many years unaware of the problems just within my city. “
At the end of her essay, she concludes, “I want to be truly prepared to help provide people with just as many resources and opportunities as I have been given. I want to be equipped and ready to battle the injustices that so many people are facing in our world. I know that something inside me will never be satisfied with ignoring the injustice surrounding me when I know that I have the capacity to help.”
This is what makes Inspire Academy different.
We started as a response to families feeling the need for more educational options in our community, options that are free and accessible to all, honor various cultural backgrounds, and welcome parent participation and voice. What started as a grassroots community effort has blossomed into a public charter school serving preschool, elementary, and middle school students. Our students learn that they are equipped with education for a purpose: to rid the world of injustice, create beautiful work, and ensure people’s lives are better because of the work we do.
The primary way we approach character, engagement, and social-emotional learning is through the lens of building habits. We believe that character is developed through the learning and practice of healthy habits, rather than character being something some humans are just born with. We focus on five habits: empathy, perseverance, curiosity, integrity, and quality. Under the umbrella of each habit, students are directly taught specific learning targets and practices to develop the habit. Students are also graded on these habits because we believe that they are just as important as academic skills! In addition our habits of scholarship, students in upper elementary and middle school are taught the Botvin Life Skills Curriculum.
Inspire Academy students regularly engage in discussions with fellow crew members that teach them how to respectfully engage hard topics with those who hold different views and opinions than their own. Students also have access to our Director of Culture, who works with our student leaders and with our students who need extra coaching to develop habits of success, and students who are facing trauma or other challenges life throws their way also have access to our School Therapist, who is a licensed mental health therapist.