The mission of UCP Charter Schools is to create a fully inclusive learning community where all students, parents, and professionals appreciate and value diversity in all forms. Students are educated to become conscious responsible citizens, whereby they assume the role of life-long learners as they reflect upon and contribute to the cultural and civic life of their community. All students are supported to achieve high standards in both their academic and personal development through a research-based educational program utilizing an inquiry/project-based program integrating arts and technology.
Inclusion means that children of all abilities learn and grow together. Over the past twenty-five years, there has been significant progress for people with disabilities. Institutionalization has been largely eliminated and all children have the right to attend school. However, as a society, we have not fully embraced the concept that people with disabilities should be side by side with others in school, in jobs and in social settings.
UCP of Central Florida is creating a new kind of community; one where everyone can learn and play together. One where a person’s disability isn’t necessarily a relevant characteristic and everyone appreciates and values all kinds of diversity. We believe that segregation in childhood ensures segregation in adulthood and creates permanent barriers. We acknowledge that all individuals, those with and without disabilities, have gifts and talents that benefit everyone. Within our community, there are limited academic options for children with and without disabilities to truly learn together.
Over the last decade, UCP has opened its doors to children without disabilities and embraced this education model and the results have been wonderful. There is evidence-based research that supports children with and without disabilities achieve the same or better academic outcomes when part of an inclusive classroom. Studies have shown that children without disabilities, when placed in a classroom with their peers with disabilities, score higher on problem solving skills and empathy than those students who are not exposed to such a diverse environment.
Arts & Technology
At UCP Charter Schools – we use a combination of arts (visual, performing, music and dance) and technology integration and Project Based Learning to reinforce and enhance learning for all students.
Visual and Performing Arts Integration Specialists work in partnership with teachers to develop and implement art projects based on the learning objectives of the class. Additionally, through various partnerships with local theaters, VSA Arts, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, Artists-in-Residence are placed at the school to work with all students and broaden the exposure to a variety of art forms.
Arts integration is an innovative teaching strategy that fuses the arts curriculum—dance, music, visual arts—with standard curricula. Rich art experiences can lead to increased academic, social and functional skill development and knowledge (Catterall, 2009; Deasy, 2002). For all students, knowledge and skill development gained through the arts can play a crucial role in their overall success (Hillier, Greher, Poto, & Dougherty, 2012). Arts integration is a powerful tool to help engage all learners.
Using principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), technology is integrated into classrooms as tools for achieving specific purposes instead of an end unto itself. UDL is a framework to learning that guides educational instruction/assessment while constantly evaluating student engagement. Technology fosters students’ collaboration and communication skills (Frey 2009). Technology has the potential for helping all students access curriculum, learn new information, and fully participate and enjoy the benefits of inclusion (Alper & Raharinirina, 2006; Jackson, 2009; Puckett, 2004) so the integration of technology is a critical component of the curriculum used at the UCP Charter Schools in order to enrich and supplement for a variety of learners. In an effort to optimize instruction and learning, UCP integrates various forms of technology throughout the school and enrichment programs. Depending on which campus you select for your child, some of the technology elements might include:
- 1:1 iPads for students in kindergarten through 5th grade at UCP’s East Orange/Bailes Campus
- Kindle Fires, Ipads and other tablets
- Laptops, netbooks and other computer devices, all-in-one printers and digital cameras
- SMARTBoards and other interactive Whiteboards in all K and above classrooms
- E-Instruction mobi teacher pad (i.e. wireless tablet), software and remote controls for interactive use by our professional staff and children
- Wi-Fi networking through the facility
- Ceiling mounted data projector/document/security cameras with secured on- and off-site video streaming capability
- Audio systems with speakers
Project Based Learning
As a framework for instruction, UCP classrooms use a project-based learning model. Children are motivated to learn best when they are active learners immersed in projects that address their passions and interests. The project approach to learning engages children in purposeful work and supports higher level thinking tied to Common Core and collaboration of all students. Evidence supports the use of project-based learning as a highly motivating way for all students to synthesize what they are learning as well as to identify gaps in their knowledge that need to be filled (Filippatou & Kaldi, 2010). Students learn best with hands-on activities (Callaghan & Madelaine, 2012; Irwin et al., 2012). Additionally, this approach fosters essential 21st-centruy skills including critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.