November 17, 2021


by: admin


Tags: Academy, challenging, education, Explorer, norms, Opens


Categories: Special needs education

Explorer Academy opens, ‘difficult norms’ of schooling

More than 100 people attended the event, which has been in the works for nearly five years, said Rupak Gandhi, superintendent of Fargo Public Schools.

Rupak Gandhi, Superintendent of Fargo Public Schools, with the Director of the Explorer Academy, Justin Lien, at the opening of the Explorer Academy on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. CS Hagen / The Forum

The Academy, a school within the school, is an extension of the Lewis and Clark Elementary School and provides special assistance for Fargo students who are faced with behavioral problems. The $ 11.8 million project lasted years as parents and school board members argued for and against such a facility.

Some parents said that special education training was more needed for teachers; However, the district did not have a separate framework for students with extreme behaviors.

WDAY logo

Newsletter subscription for email notifications

Sharp corners are hard to find in the academy. The walls are rounded. Soft light and wall projectors create a calming atmosphere. Much of the furniture is soft, and the sensory gym, which was created to help kids build confidence, is similar to an entertainment center, said teacher Nate Hendrickson.

Explorer Academy's sensory fitness studio.  CS Hagen / The Forum

Explorer Academy’s sensory fitness studio. CS Hagen / The Forum

“We had to question the norms about the way we deliver education,” said Gandhi, adding that the uniqueness of the building will help remove triggers that cause misbehavior or excitement in some students to lead.

“This is the first investment in students who realize that some students have special needs,” said Gandhi. The stories that the students of the academy will write in the future are not the front pages, but “stories of normality”.

Justin Lien, director of the Explorer Academy, said that “every nook and cranny has a story” that will help empower the whole child socially and emotionally to increase academic success.

“It took an entire village – sometimes even neighboring villages – to make this dream come true,” said Lien.

Kim Pladson, executive director of TNT Kid’s Fitness & Gymnastics, a partner with the academy, said she believes that exercise is unlocking student potential.

Explorer Academy SmartLab.  CS Hagen / The Forum

Explorer Academy SmartLab. CS Hagen / The Forum

“A child is a gift waiting to be opened. That’s what this school means to the community and what this school means to the state, ”said Pladson. “We shape the future. A third of our population, our children, are 100% of our future. We are a role model for the state. ”

Tanya Greywind, deputy director of the North Dakota Center for Distance Education, said the SmartLab was built on hands-on projects and experience, and equipped with drones, 3D printers and “an explosion of possibilities.”

The sensory gym has zip lines and trampolines, and a pit in the middle of soft, frothy pillows. It’s a place where children “can fall and fall safely,” said Hendrickson.

The gym is fun and challenging and is designed to increase body awareness, solve problems, and express difficulties.

Many rooms within the academy have no doors as isolation is not part of the school’s program. Students also have access to calming rooms and a mental health gallery is also available.

Teachers and staff also have their own zen room where they can decompress and recharge, Lien said.

The Explorer Academy’s mascots are wolves, inspired by the North American indigenous 7 grandfather teachings who represent the animal with humility, according to an Explorer Academy press release.

“The wolf is strong and powerful on its own, but it finds its greatest strength when it is part of the pack,” the press release said.

“We know that no two students are alike,” said Gandhi, adding that the Explorer Academy is a true reflection of the Fargo School District.


Don’t miss these tips!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.