Volume 6 No. 10
Nestled in Sault Ste. Marie, Lake Superior Academy (LSA) is up to exciting things within their campus. Principal Susie Schlehuber recounts how development, on principle, is not a static thing for her students, “Movement, activity, and outdoor time is really important to academic learning and to academic success. I think so often that has been cut from the school day. We have a few teachers who've taught in public schools and they see that students are more focused when they're inside because they've already had a good amount of time outdoors.” Not desiring the typical swing sets and slides, Schlehuber instead had play structures built that were conducive for the investigative part of activity outside. From an amphitheater where the students are constantly giving concerts, reciting poetry, and putting on plays to a life size Lincoln Log cabin that students can build and rebuild, to several gardens, quarter-mile trails, and a mud kitchen, activity outdoors is stimulating and educational.

“LSA is doing great. Student-wise we have a full enrollment. Financially we're where we need to be and above. So those two things coupled together puts us in a healthy spot so that we can really focus on the academics,” Schlehuber says. This season’s focus has been on encouraging students to read outside with the most recent addition to the outdoor campus: Fort Reading. 

What started as an idea seen on Pinterest turned into about a year of planning and funds saving to build the fort. Their goal was to make a new environment that helps students enjoy reading, especially if the traditional academic setting is not conducive. Now that it’s finished, teachers are excited for students to use it. It has two watertight compartments for books to keep them dry as well as quiet games, like cards, stocked up. Schlehuber says even if it rains, “Students can still get fresh air and exercise and relax and read or play quiet games in the fort.”

“You can guess the kids love it. Parents enjoy their kids coming home tired from school,” Schlehuber says. Though the colder weather can bring some runny noses and colds, Schlehuber thinks overall, “99% of the responses we get are very favorable.”

As for the future, Schlehuber notes that they would like to have longer trails cultivated and a labyrinth made, as both cultivate mindfulness. Another activity is to include some freshwater activity for students as a focus in the outdoor classroom. As Principal Schlehuber says, “We always think our plans are crazy until they start coming together.” 

Great job, Lake Superior Academy!
Fort Reading’s indoor and outdoor views.
The past semester, Fortis Academy students, faculty, and staff have made initiatives of serving their community. Principal Erin Dixon is currently preparing for the coming year by going to the NHA Leadership Summit in Grand Rapids. Through these activities, Fortis Academy has shown a way to practice virtue through leadership.

One such story is the most recent project: “It was kind of early spring,” Principal Erin Dixon said, “we were trying to do some brainstorming amongst the leadership team and figure out some of the ways we can start bringing back more of the fun and community involvement that we had pre-COVID.” Through research on their community, Dixon and her team began to plan activities around their curriculum’s moral focus of the month — compassion. Through Facebook connections and students banding together, Fortis Academy organized a week-long drive to bring cereal boxes to donate to the local Ypsilanti food bank. “The students were so excited as they saw the cereal kind of piling up in the room we were collecting it in,” said Dixon. “Not all of our students come from families that have everything that they need for their day-to-day, but this was still a way that they could give to others.”

Fortis Academy’s curriculum focuses on a different moral virtue each month. As a result, teachers plan activities to center around each virtue. This routine brings depth and rigor to each month and is built out to repeat each year. As a child progresses through each grade, he or she will be able to get a deep and growing understanding of each virtue.

Though the staff and faculty are always on the lookout for opportunities to serve their community, some of the students have a special impetus to search as well. Through the National Junior Honor Society program, seventh and eighth graders are expected to spend time volunteering. This gives them the opportunity to give back to their community. “We want all of our students to be leaders in the community, and that’s why NHS’ moral focus curriculum is such a key component of what we do at Fortis. We try to recognize when students are showing those different morally-focused virtues in their day to day life, for example, if they helped a friend without being asked, we recognize them for showing compassion through just a verbal affirmation. We also do shoutouts for each other on our morning announcements three times a week. So, a student, for example, can send in a shout out to another student for helping them on the playground without being asked and recognize that compassion. So I think by making it kind of a living part of our day, it really makes it come to life for the students.”

When November arrives, every student will practice the month’s moral focus: gratitude. Dixon notes how gratitude often motivates service, “Being grateful for what we have and persevering and continuing to work through things and make life better for everybody that we can in our community.” As their efforts have shown, these are principles that will continue to guide the formation of Fortis Academy students for years to come.

Nice work, Fortis Academy!
About Bay Mills Community College Charter Schools
Bay Mills Community College began authorizing charter schools in the year 2000 and now authorizes 46 schools serving approximately 23,660 students.
Our Mission: To ensure a quality education for urban, minority, and/or poor children by improving and expanding educational opportunities through innovative oversight methods. To provide academy boards with the necessary support and training so that they may make educated decisions that are in the best interest of the students that attend their academies.