Our Approach to Academics
SEA Academy utilizes a multi-age classroom approach. This structure allows teachers to deeply know their students’ learning styles and is conducive to active student involvement in teaching and learning opportunities. Within a multi-age setting, opportunities for enrichment and reinforcement of learning are provided. Younger students learn from the older students who, in turn, have an opportunity to take on a leadership role and share their knowledge.
Research supports that students in multi-age classrooms demonstrate increased self esteem, more cooperative behavior, increased pro-social behavior (caring, tolerant, patient), an enhanced sense of personal responsibility and self-discipline.
Currently, SEA Academy offers 5 classrooms based on students strengths and needs, personalities, developmental level, and/or learning styles.
We use a large variety of evidence-based strategies. Explore strategies are listed below.
Antecedent: These strategies involve the modification of situational events that typically precede the occurrence of a target behavior. These alterations are made to increase the likelihood of success or reduce the likelihood of problems occurring.
Treatments falling into this category reflect research representing the fields of applied behavior analysis (ABA), behavioral psychology, and positive behavior supports. Examples include behavior chain interruption (for increasing behaviors); behavioral momentum; choice; contriving motivational operations; cueing and prompting/prompt fading procedures; environmental enrichment; environmental modification of task demands, social comments, adult presence, familiarity with stimuli; errorless learning; errorless compliance; habit reversal; incorporating echolalia, special interests, thematic activities, or ritualistic/obsessional activities into tasks; maintenance interpersonal; noncontingent access; noncontingent reinforcement; priming; stimulus variation; and time delay.
Behavioral: These interventions are designed to reduce problem behavior and teach functional alternative behaviors or skills through the application of basic principles of behavior change. Treatments falling into this category reflect research representing the fields of applied behavior analysis, behavioral psychology, and positive behavior supports. Examples include chaining; contingency contracting; contingency mapping; delayed contingencies; differential reinforcement strategies; discrete trial teaching; functional communication training; generalization training; noncontingent escape with instructional fading; progressive relaxation; reinforcement; shaping; stimulus-stimulus pairing with reinforcement; successive approximation; task analysis; and token economy.
Naturalistic Teaching: These interventions involve using primarily child-directed interactions to teach functional skills in the natural environment. These interventions often involve providing a stimulating environment, modeling how to play, encouraging conversation, providing choices and direct/ natural reinforcers, and rewarding reasonable attempts.
Joint Attention Intervention: These interventions involve building foundational skills involved in regulating the behaviors of others. Joint attention often involves teaching a child to respond to the nonverbal social bids of others or to initiate joint attention interactions. Examples include pointing to objects, showing items/ activities to another person, and following eye gaze.
Modeling: These interventions rely on an adult or peer providing a demonstration of the target behavior that should result in an imitation of the target behavior by the individual with ASD. Modeling can include simple and complex behaviors. This intervention is often combined with other strategies such as prompting and reinforcement. Examples include live modeling and video modeling.
Schedules: These interventions involve the presentation of a task list that communicates a series of activities or steps required to complete a specific activity. Schedules are often supplemented by other interventions such as reinforcement. Schedules can take several forms including written words, pictures or photographs, or work stations.
Self-management: These interventions involve promoting independence by teaching individuals with ASD to regulate their behavior by recording the occurrence/non-occurrence of the target behavior, and securing reinforcement for doing so. Initial skills development may involve other strategies and may include the task of setting one’s own goals. In addition, reinforcement is a component of this intervention with the individual with ASD independently seeking and/or delivering reinforcers. Examples include the use of checklists (using checks, smiley/frowning faces), wrist counters, visual prompts, and tokens.
Story-based Intervention: Treatments that involve a written description of the situations under which specific behaviors are expected to occur. Stories may be supplemented with additional components (e.g., prompting, reinforcement, discussion, etc.).
Social Stories™ are the most well-known story based interventions and they seek to answer the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why” in order to improve perspective-taking
Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. Students work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by creating a public product or presentation for a real audience.
As a result, students develop deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills. Project Based Learning unleashes a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers.
Each year, students create a film about a topic that is meaningful to them. This student-led project requires them to be engaged and involved throughout the entire process. After the films are edited and finalized, they are proudly presented at the Stone Theaters at Barclay! Past themes include Protect the Planet and Through the Decades.
Haunted House/Fall Festival
Another student-led project is our annual Haunted House. Students create a theme for a room and staff guides them in designing the room, props, and costumes. The public is invited to participate… if they dare!
Students and staff at SEA Academy are committed to finding opportunities for experiential learning through frequent field trips, weekly community engagement, internships, and volunteering. Leaving the predictability and security of our school allows for spontaneous instruction that requires them to put their problem-solving skills into action!
- Field Trips
- Luna Café Coffee Club
- Independent Living Excursions
- Habitat For Humanity
- Seaside Bagels
- Blueberry Lane Farm Animal Sanctuary
We also welcome the community to visit our school on a regular basis! Our visitors are always impressed with the politeness and enthusiasm of our students. No one leaves without a smile on their face! A few of our past visitors include:
- The Fossil Lady
- Law Enforcement
- Wilmington Compost Company
*** While New Hanover and surrounding counties are full of endless possibilities when it comes to community involvement, it is our vision of the future to expand our learning experiences beyond the community to other parts of the state, country, and beyond for exposure to additional cultures and perspectives.
Our students are bright, intellectually curious learners with enormous potential. However, their communication and social abilities can affect both their academic success in the classroom and their social success in the larger community.
Therefore, social skills instruction is a critical component of the educational experience at SEA Academy. Students receive instruction both directly and “on the fly” as needs arise. Throughout the year, we rely on positive, research-based practices in order to develop each student’s full potential for social growth in the areas of perspective, self-awareness, self-advocacy, flexible thinking, understanding others, peer relations, responsibility, problem resolution, and social expectations.
Social learning and thinking are embedded in the academic curriculum and instruction throughout the day, as well as taught directly in a pull out setting. Key social skills are broken down into more basic components. Students learn how to cooperate and work successfully as group members in a variety of projects and activities. Role-playing, drama, art, and other forms of creative expression are used to facilitate student learning and to practice successful social skills strategies.
We follow a structured, systematic and thoughtful curriculum that carefully sequences and orders a progression of social skills. We are committed to identifying and creating research-based “best practices” for helping our students learn to successfully interact and communicate with others, and to think flexibly. Some of the instructional strategies and materials we use include:
- Thinking About You, Thinking About Me (Michelle Garcia Winner)
- The Hidden Curriculum (Brenda Smith Myles)
- Be Cool (James Stanfield)
- Skillstreaming (Arnold Goldstein)
- Social Skills Training with Asperger’s Syndrome (Jed Baker)
- Comic Strip Conversations (Carol Gray)
- Incorporating Social Goals in the Classroom (Rebecca Moyes)
Please check out our Social Group Curriculum to see the many skills we teach during the year! (We are always adding to this list, so check back frequently.)
Integration and Opportunities for Practice
We believe that one of the best ways to develop social growth is by coaching students through the “teachable moments” that occur naturally each day. Whether in the classroom, during group activities, at lunch, or on the playground, all of our staff are continually working with students to practice skills they are learning. Successful experiences are reinforced, and we help students learn how to “repair” an unsuccessful experience by trying a different approach to produce the desired outcome. Parents and family members are also included as we extend the learning into the home environment.
Because our students often struggle to apply skills they acquire in new environments, we provide them with regular opportunities to practice their social skills in the community. We take full advantage of the wealth of community and cultural resources within walking distance, and around Wilmington. We want our students to develop fluency in their social interactions as they eat out, go to the park, take a field trip, or enjoy extracurricular activities with families and friends. We teach our students how to navigate the unstated rules of society that can be difficult for them to understand.
In order for instruction to be meaningful, we strive to ensure that the skills that students are learning in the classroom transfer across people, places, and situations. Through frequent and consistent communication, teachers and parents are able to cooperate on addressing targeted goals specific to each student. Using each student's individualized education plan, we establish how we will monitor and assess whether students are successful in this transfer of knowledge in their day to day lives.