Compositive: Anastasis – An intimate, whole-child centered school

Alan Gottlieb, Compositive Staff

Located in Centennial, Colorado, just south of Denver, Anastasis Academy is a 56-student, K-8 private Christian school that has achieved worldwide recognition in the five years since its founding.

Anastasis’s unique approach to whole-child education features a 12:1 student-teacher ratio, six in-depth, multi-disciplinary, student-driven inquiry blocks per year, and students grouped based on developmental ability and maturity rather than based on age alone.                                               

Kelly Tenkely, the school’s co-founder, had a couple of epiphanies that ultimately led to the Anastasis model. As a young, inexperienced, technology teacher, she started blogging as a way to remember the tech lessons she had developed. The blog caught fire and teachers from around the world started reaching out to her.

As she learned more from teachers she met through her blog about what was happening in classrooms around the world, she thought, “wait a minute, there are some exciting things happening out there that kids in this country are getting.”

Next, as she listened to music through the Pandora app, which customizes playlists as it learns a listener’s preference, she wondered “Why can’t there be a Pandora for learning? What if curriculum looked more like Pandora, customized for each student?”

And that’s precisely what Anastasis does. During the first week of every school year, each student has intensive one-on-one meetings with his or her teacher. Using “learner genome cards” developed by Tenkely, teachers build in-depth learner profiles for each student.

These profiles identify learning style preferences, multiple intelligent strengths, developmental levels, interests, and passions of each student. Teachers can then develop an individual curriculum for each student.

Tenkely has launched The Learning Genome Project as a way to share the Anastasis model with other educators.

Anastasis begins each day with a school-wide gathering called “metanoia,” or journey of the heart. It has a Christian spiritual component, focused primarily on “who we are, who God says we are, and how people have examined their identities through art, music and other creative endeavors, Tenkely explained.

After the gathering, the entire school takes a one-mile walk. “We value the movement; it gets the blood flowing” and prepares the students for a day of learning.

Physical activity occurs throughout the academic day, in the form of “brain breaks.” Tenkley said that kids know when they need a break and can go out and run laps around the playground, or do a few minutes of yoga.

Connections to the community are also a key component of the Anastasis program. Each multi-aged classroom has a connection to a local non-profit. The youngest students visit a nearby assisted living facility. Other participate in delivering Meals on Wheels to local families. Others work at a food-bank, and the oldest kids work with elderly homeless people through the Denver Rescue Mission’s Senior Support Services.

Whole mind, whole heart, whole body, whole community: Anastasis Academy touches all the B4Kids bases. Read more about how Anastasis incorporates each domain here.

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