New REACH Academy Charter School offers unique learning spaces

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Kindergartners and first graders on Buffalo’s East Side have a new opportunity this school year to do some seriously learning in a very fun way.

The REACH Academy Charter School opened its doors for the first time this week, offering students eight unique classrooms, set up as a fire station, farm yard, construction zone, grocery store and more.

MORE | Click here to learn more about some of the key design elements

Each class spends five weeks in each room before rotating with their teacher to the next one. Each classroom is specifically designed to build background knowledge and vocabulary skills for children in an engaging environment.

“It’s all about building background knowledge and vocabulary for students. A lot of kids that come from underprivileged homes don’t get the same opportunities to get the same kinds of experiences as kids from other income levels, so that’s what often causes the achievement gap for those in poverty,” explained Linda Marszalek, one of the school’s co-founders who serves as the head of the school.

“So our goal is to be able to provide rich language opportunities for kids in their classrooms and to be able to take the same skills that they would be learning in any other kindergarten or first grade in other schools and emerge them into a natural environment where it helps to make their learning much more authentic and real,” she added.

In its first year, the school has welcomed classes of kindergartners and first graders. School leaders plan to add a grade level every year in the future until this is a full K-8 charter school.

The room themes will become more sophisticated as grade levels are added. “In second grade, you might have a theme called types of weather,” Marszalek said. “Fifth grade might be types of physics in motion.”

The experiential learning, in small group settings, is crucial to the educational model here. “It stays with them, it means more. It’s everything,” said Robin Nellis, a co-founder who serves as the schools Chief Information Officer and Student Intake Coordinator.

“I think it ties the real world to learning for the students,” added another co-founder, Michael Olsen, the director of technology and facilities.

Five co-founders have worked together for the past five years to open the REACH Academy Charter School in the former Pinnacle Charter School building on Ash Street.

The school focuses on positive behavioral intervention and support in its classrooms, with students earning Scholar Bucks for good behavior, which can be redeemed for a variety of prizes and experiences.

Currently, the REACH Academy Charter School is accepting applications for first grade students.

Tours are available for prospective families.

More information can be found on the school’s website at http://www.reachacademycharter.org/

News 4’s Katie Alexander got a look inside the REACH Academy Charter School during Wake Up Friday morning. Watch the videos below for our full coverage.

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