It all happens here.
Our pilot learning center is situated in the heart of Beijing's Central Business District and embassy zone - the perfect global environment. Here, our international team of mentors and learners experiment with innovative education practices in every one of our programs.
The Innovative Education Base, or the Base for short, is an all-day learning environment that takes the place of a traditional school. With the help of adult mentors, learners in this program create and implement customized education plans. These plans encompass typical school subjects like science, social studies, language arts, and math as well as more specialized topics such as architecture or playwriting. They are structured according to the children’s interests and goals, and involve independent study, hands-on activities, and creative projects. By focusing on essential skills, we aim to help children become lifelong learners who are capable of exploring both deeply and broadly. The Base provides the foundation for our team's many educational experiments.
ON THE ROAD
Rigorous, meaningful travel learning is an essential part of Armada’s learning process. In our On the Road curriculum, we allow each learner to plan and prepare for their own unique travel experiences under the guidance of adult mentors. Our learners take multiple excursions both in China and abroad. In the winter of 2014, after studying German for a year, Felix traveled to Hamburg, where he lived with a German family for a month and attended a local elementary school. With Ryan's help, Emily and Erik planned an overnight visit to a Cuandixia, a village outside of Beijing. And in summer 2015, Felix and Brendan traveled to the USA on a month-long trip to learn about history and experience American culture firsthand. The On the Road program is still in development, but each experiment has led to new ideas and insights about the potential of travel learning!
The Meadow is a program that helps learners build foundational skills and abilities while also developing their self-confidence. It serves as a landing pad for learners who are accustomed to traditional school environments. Before they can thrive at the Base, they must understand that they have the power to guide their own education and grow in their unlimited potential. Learners also foster a deep respect and responsibility for themselves, other people, and the planet. The Meadow’s pedagogy is guided by an international team of adult mentors to ensure that structured and developmentally appropriate activities occur in conjunction with the freedom that leads to self-directedness. The Meadow also has a strong orientation to social justice, and helps learners understand their impact on the world around them.
The StoryShow is a children's literacy program that combines education and entertainment to make books come alive! The program is built around a series of dynamic, fun, interactive performances inspired by classic English-language picture books. As we bring each book to life, we call on learners to help - to act out the story, learn about new words and new worlds, and let their imaginations run free! Once the show is over, learners dive into hands-on activities that challenge them to use their creativity to collaborate and explore each story further. The program also serves as a platform for children to put on performances of their own - plays, poetry readings, concerts,
you name it!
Second Language Acquisition
Language acquisition is an important part of Armada’s programming, and our team has been researching and developing new strategies since the organization began. This serves a double purpose: we discover what works with our team, which helps us communicate and collaborate better, but we also convert those insights into curricula to be used with our learners. We have developed various personalized programs to suit each learner’s individual needs, but our core principles are the same throughout.
Many people approach a language through memorization and mechanical learning, and the result is that they draw on rote knowledge when using it. Our acquisition strategy, on the other hand, directly exposes learners to ideas, concepts or images alongside their foreign-language names. This helps learners develop a natural conditioned reflex for words and phrases, which leads to more instinctual and meaningful usage.
PAGE AND STAGE
In our two-part Page and Stage program, learners explore their own creativity while growing important language skills. Page makes learners into authors and illustrators, and invites them to discuss their work and the work of others with respect, clarity, and creativity. With the help of focused activities and our original set of interactive writing workbooks, they invent characters, build fantastical settings, and navigate the twists and turns of plot.
Meanwhile, our Stage program uses drama games and collaborative challenges to help learners grow in self-confidence and express themselves clearly and naturally. The program spans a wide range of theatrical disciplines, from acting, improv, and bodywork to costume and set design. At the program’s end, learners mount their own original drama production or improvisational performance.
The knowledge wall
Learners will always be better-motivated and more engaged if they understand the wider context of what they are learning. But too often, students in traditional schools have no sense of the relevance of the subjects they encounter in class. And many schools isolate learning into discrete areas of knowledge without overlap. Our Knowledge Wall program aimed to solve these problems by giving our learners a dynamic overview of more than fifty interconnected disciplines. In collaboration with mentors, the learners designed a large display to share their understanding of each one. In their design, each discipline was represented as an ingredient in a “magic potion factory,” with a cauldron in the middle to show that interdisciplinary projects (or “potions”) can be created from mixing different knowledge areas. Adult mentors began by giving presentations about each discipline, and then learners created and presented an “ingredient” diagram for each one. The final product showcases the breadth of human knowledge and helps each learner devise new projects!
The Better Endurance, Agility, and Strength Training Project (Project B.E.A.S.T. for short) grew out of Armada’s long-standing commitment to physical education and the notion that healthy bodies support healthy minds. We began with basic discussions aimed at helping learners understand the purpose of exercise in a larger context of holistic well-being. Then we created a comprehensive schedule and set of activities (warmups, stretching, cardio, sports, strength drills, etc.) that learners were responsible for leading themselves. Finally, we collaborated to devise a fun, gamified system of tracking progress that motivates each learner by pitting them against their own past performance. Through these steps, learners were able to build a personalized, self-motivated workout routine that they can independently maintain.
The history "forest" project
At Armada, we say that you must understand a forest before you zoom in and focus on its individual trees. Our History “Forest” Project was a program to help learners understand wider historical contexts before delving into investigations of their own. We began by creating an enormous timeline and world map, starting with the Big Bang and ending at the present day. Teams of learners and mentors worked together to research different eras and collaborate on artistic projects to share their findings. As we progressed through the timeline, we also added written descriptions of important dates or historical periods, and marked their location on the map. Meanwhile, we kept track of any questions or interests that could lead to more in-depth “tree” investigations later. Learners finished the program with a broad-strokes mastery of different historical periods, a familiarity with research methods and important concepts, and an exciting list of possible projects for them to explore individually!
The Philosophy Wall
Armada is a fundamentally values-based organization, and our values inform both our collaborative culture and the educational projects we undertake. After much discussion amongst learners and mentors, we narrowed our key values down to twelve: Comprehensiveness, Goal-Orientation, Improving through Mistakes, Self-Possession, Leadership, Well-Being, Creativity, Spirit of Giving, Open Communication, Lifelong Learning, Simplicity, and Self-Discipline.
We wanted to display these somewhere prominent, but we also wanted the display to be a dynamic, evolving, educational tool – not just decoration. Thus, the ritual of the “Philosophy Wall” was born. Every two weeks, learners and mentors come together to add more content that’s inspired by these values – quotes, art projects, posters, photographs – and share what they mean to us!