Commitment #3: Students Learn Life Skills

November 9, 2022

If kids learn traditional academic content in half the time, what do they do with the rest of their school day?

They learn the critical things that traditional schools fail to fully teach: life skills.

We teach life skills through a project-based curriculum. Students tackle these projects as individuals, with a group, or as a part of a level workshop, earning checks towards completing the life skill requirements for their level.

Projects are interconnected — basic projects serve as prerequisites for a progression of more advanced projects (even across life skills categories). Each project is oriented around a specific learning objective and has clear criteria for successful completion in the form of Test2Pass.

But what exactly do we mean by “life skills?” We’ve wrestled with defining a comprehensive set. It’s tough. Real life is messy and complicated and there’s no universal recipe for success. So our life skills “board” is a living document. It is continually evaluated by students and iterated upon by guides.

Mandatory Test2Pass (T2P).

Every workshop culminates with a T2P, requiring our students to prove they have mastered the life skill, not just practiced it. We orient our life skills curriculum around specific, teachable, and measurable skills.

When students learn concrete skills, they build integrated, holistic qualities like “leadership” and “adaptability” along the way. And they gain the confidence to chart their own path through life.

At Alpha, we know real projects are better than artificial ones.

We believe that students can tackle real-life challenges and problems, not just artificial ones. The best projects have real outcomes and real stakes.

We don’t teach academic speech and debate — we teach students to give 7-minute TED Talks, give a welcome speech at a gathering, or rally their team after a tough meeting. Why have students imagine a fake product, when they could design and build a real one? They don’t learn to code by reading a textbook or listening to a lecture; they learn to code by building apps.

Tests of success and failure should be rooted in reality: as one aspiring paleontologist noted, no one needs to be able to identify thirty dinosaur bones in thirty minutes.

Take a look at some of our workshops:

Autonomous Cars with HelloWorld
Life Skill: Computer Science
Students will learn how to code in Python to drive an autonomous car around a race track. With weekly challenges, students will acquire new skills and build an inventory of commands to help them maneuver around the track and be the first to cross the finish line!
T2P: Students must program their car to independently complete an obstacle course without hitting any pedestrians.

Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?
Life Skills: Focus & Intensity & Be an Expert
Are you smarter than a 3rd grader? Prove your mastery in 3rd grade math for a chance to earn $100. $100 for 100%, that simple! Haven’t mastered everything just yet? We will help you make sure have all of the tools you need to gain total mastery of specific grade-level math content. How much can you earn in one session?
T2P: Students must earn 100% on specific subject & grade level STAAR Test.

Life Skill: Learn to Learn
During PFX, students will set dollar bills on fire, create fake wounds and pour their own plate glass. These projects have proved to be engaging on their own, not to mention they are technical and complex. These projects require precision, attention to detail, and sequential problem solving in order to be successful. All skills in this workshop translate to countless other areas in life: coding, project management, engineering, baking, etc. Through this highly rated and highly sought-after workshop, students will practice the Learn to Learn skill needed to master almost any problem they face in the real world.
T2P: Students will complete a 20-step minimum process with 5% margin of error.

The World Around Us with Apollo
Life Skills: Goal Setting, Problem Solving, Public Speaking
From vision boarding to shoe design simulations, students will engage in various experiential learning exercises and will learn to set (and achieve) ambitious goals while learning how to break down complexity. Through the Moonshot Hackathon challenge, students will develop their presentation skills and learn how to give and receive feedback.
T2P: (Goal setting) Students will set a clear and ambitious goal and design a plan of action to achieve in one month. (Public Speaking) Students will record a video response to a prompt using the Orai public speaking app and achieve 95% or higher. (Problem Solving) Students will break down a problem into smaller components and apply a clear framework in order to solve it. Students will achieve a 4/5 in the “Hackathon Problem Solving” challenge evaluated by external judges.

Smarter Than Google
Life Skill: Become an Expert
Students will work to better understand their circle of competence and the limits to their knowledge by digging deep into a subject area they’re passionate about. They’ll test their knowledge and earn the title of “Expert” by correctly answering 9/10 questions posed by their peers… who will have Google on their side!
T2P: Students will have to get in front of their classmates (who have Google) and answer 9 out of 10 questions correctly on their self-identified area of expertise.