A new school in Jacksonville is revolutionizing the way students learn and apply information. Meros Academy is a developing middle and high school that will incorporate a hands-on, technology-based curriculum to help engage students in their own learning experience.

Former public school teacher and founder of the Meros Academy, James Smith, saw the current education system in action – or rather, in inaction – for 17 years, before he came up with a resolution.

“The biggest frustration for me as a teacher in the education system was that nothing was working in a cohesive fashion,” said Smith. “So I came up with a new approach that focuses on two main elements I believe the current system is lacking: authenticity and relevancy.”

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What started out as Smith’s blueprint for a proposed solution has evolved into a crowd-funded project. Meros Academy was first presented to the Jacksonville community at One Spark 2013. Smith and his staff used the experience from that event to rebrand and redefine their learning strategies, and returned to the 2014 One Spark this past spring. The school’s board of directors then used the momentum from One Spark to launch a 30-day RocketHub campaign that raised over $35,000 for Meros Academy’s two-week summer program this month. The school is scheduled to welcome its first full class of middle-school students in the fall of 2015.

Meros Academy incorporates eight research-proven elements into their education model: curriculum, support, mentorship, application, health, movement, sustainability and culture.

These elements move away from the regurgitation of information that is plaguing school systems today by adapting old philosophies to a new approach.

“Our goal isn’t to put a wrinkle on education. Our goal is to completely change the way that students are taught so that their ultimate potential can be realized,” explained Smith. “Applied learning isn’t a new concept, but we are bringing this method of education into the 21st century.”

Meros Academy hopes to accomplish this by utilizing technology in a big way. Students will be taught to use current technology as a main resource for projects. Teachers will help guide students to find the information they need to find answers as opposed to using technology to drive straight to the answer.

All curriculums for the academy will be driven through an online program, allowing students to easily access their projects. The online program will create a workspace that is accessible to learning coaches, teachers and parents in an effort to prevent students from falling through the cracks.

“Right now, I get a report card from my son’s school. But that letter grade doesn’t tell me where his strengths and weaknesses are,” said Smith. “There needs to be a system that involves everyone in the learning process. My hope is that Meros Academy will open the door for that.”

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Renaissance Jax, a Jacksonville-based company, is partnering with Meros Academy to provide innovative technology for students to utilize. This will allow students to see first-hand how technology can provide meaningful solutions to the problems they face. For example, students this summer will learn how to build and program a robot.

Robotics is just one of the many innovative activities students will immerse themselves in. Other projects include skate ramp design, video production, and a variety of art mediums. The idea is that when students are learning things that interest them, they will feel like they have a more central role in their own learning experience. For instance, being able to determine an angle is much more relevant when building a skate ramp than filling out a math worksheet.

Meros Academy will welcome its first students to the summer program from July 21 to Aug. 1. There will be 20 students and seven coaches, and it will be the academy’s first time applying its Solution-Driven Learning model to students. The goal is for these students to walk away visibly happier, healthier and safer, and equipped with better ways to respond to the world around them.