A Look Inside A $32,000-A-Year-Elementary School In New York's East Village

world class learning academy students

Photo: Abby Rogers/Business Insider

For students at World Class Learning Academy, it’s time to learn about chocolate.Yes, chocolate.

Apparently, America’s favourite snack can be used to teach students about the world as a whole, looking at everything from the sweet’s origin to its cultural and musical influences.

“That’s what really sets us apart from everybody else,” Headmaster John Taylor said when discussing the school’s unique take on learning.

WCLA, which opened in September 2011, offers a blend of two educational curricula: a proprietary method owned by WCLA’s parent company, and the National Curriculum for England, which incorporates literature and maths.

A full day of nursery school for three-year-olds clocks in at $22,500 and nursery school for four-year-olds costs $25,500. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade pay $31,900 in tuition annually.

In addition to tuition, parents also fork over a $50 application fee, and a one-time $2,000 “new student” fee. Financial aid is available, and tuition rates have not yet been set for next year.

But with that price tag comes state-of-the-art classrooms, all of which are equipped with SMART Boards, teachers trained in the United Kingdom, a library filled with thousands of titles, and a full music program.

To enjoy these perks, parents must fill out the application and attach a picture and all required forms, pay the application fee, and visit the school.

On the day we toured the facility, there was a new student, a young boy from South Africa, taking his new-student visit.

The child hopped right into the flow of things—he even fist-bumped the headmaster—and by the end of his tour he seemed right at home practicing maths with his new classmates.

While we were there we also saw a giant gym we would have loved to have had as a kid and small classrooms that had at least two teachers in each space.

Currently, the school only educates children aged two through 11. But they hope to expand to older age groups as well.

Welcome to World Class Learning Academy. Currently, 45 students are enrolled, but administrators expect that number to double by next year.

Even the younger kids get in on the action, cycling around their playroom.

Part of developing the whole person means nurturing the artistic side, as well as the physical. WCLA students attend music classes twice a week. The school, which already has a brass program, is starting a string program as well. The students also performed in a holiday concert.

All that activity must work up an appetite. The school's cafe serves lunch catered from Butter Beans. Lunch is compulsory for full-day students and is nut-free.

On the day we visited, the two-year-old class learned through songs and animal sounds.

The three-year-old age group learns through technology and other activity-based methods. Fiona is using an iPad to learn her letters.

One of the curricula used at the school emphasises themes to help students learn. One theme for the younger kids is patterns.

The older kids are learning about chocolate. They just started their new theme, which means one thing: tasting day. The students will also venture to a local chocolate maker and learn about chocolate-related issues, such as fair trade.

WCLA doesn't use textbooks. Students keep a journal, chronicling their learning experience. In one, a student recounts the imaginary trip to Kenya taken by his class.

The school places a strong emphasis on neat, aesthetic handwriting.

Textbooks are often outdated as soon as they're published, so teachers use up-to-the-minute technology like SMART Boards, teacher Hayley Roberts said. Here, the new student from South Africa jumped to the head of the class to practice maths through a fun game.

Students are split up into teams, or houses. The teams are able to earn points for their houses through a variety of tasks. Teacher tally up the points at the end of each week, and at the end of the year, a trophy is awarded to the winning house.

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