Avalon is a small public charter school serving 250 students in grades 6-12, located in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Since Avalon's founding in 2001, two innovations have remained at the very heart of our program: Project-based Learning as our main pedagogical approach and a school-governance model built on shared power and collaborative decision-making among our teaching staff.
Project-Based Learning, our core curricular model, is designed to empower our students to explore their passions, identities, and strengths, while developing the communication, time management, and collaboration skills necessary to succeed in a dynamic and ever-changing landscape. At Avalon, students employ project-based learning to master content, to learn about themselves, and to do meaningful work in their communities.
Emphasizing community, active learning, and engaged citizenship, Avalon’s project-based model prepares students by helping them develop their independence and connect their learning to the world beyond our walls. This connection pulls student work out of the classroom and extends it into the real world, providing context, relevance, and application. We push students to engage in the community – of Avalon, but also of St. Paul, Minnesota, the United States, and beyond – in order to gain the critical skills, perspectives, and empathy required to live out our mission: “Avalon School seeks to establish a just world by nurturing an equitable school community for students that inspires active learning, social justice, engaged citizenship, and hope for the future.”
To create and maintain a learning environment that continuously centers the student, we believe that those that work most closely with the students must also be the ones making the decisions. And so, at Avalon, teachers govern the school collaboratively: there is no principal. This collaborative decision-making model helps to direct staff energies and talents to best maintain, sustain, and transform the school to realize this vision (while also maintaining a significant fund balance!). Our goal is to model democracy, acceptance, and passion for learning for our students. This commitment to democratic, shared leadership was true in our founding charter - when we had eight full-time teachers - and it remains so today as our staff grows beyond forty.
Utilizing these two innovations to educate students from across the Twin Cities metro for the last twenty years, Avalon School has served as a force for educational innovation locally, nationally, and internationally. Each year we host hundreds of teachers, administrators, and policy-makers from our local community, across the United States, and far beyond, including Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan. These visitors seek to study both how our students learn through projects and how we operate as shared decision-makers. In addition to hosting, we have also remained committed to participating in the larger movement, sharing with and learning from like-minded educators through active engagement and leadership in both local and national organizations and networks (one we started ourselves)!
In the High School Program, students work to meet the state graduation standards by successfully completing both independent, student-designed projects and teacher-led classes. While all state standards can be met through student projects, most students engage in both experiences throughout the day.
With support from their advisor, students design, execute, and present independent projects throughout the year to earn credit and meet state standards.
To learn more about the project process, see our Project Process page.
See Sample Schedule:
The middle school (6th-8th grade) program has been modeled after the successful program developed for the high school: personalized learning, academic excellence, safe and welcoming community, authentic (active) learning, the belief in social justice, and life-long learning.
While both programs offer a mix of independent project time and teacher-led classes, students in the Middle School Program spend their mornings in core, grade-level based classes and have opportunities for independent projects and electives in the afternoon. Additionally, students in the middle school work through the project process together, producing one project each a quarter. This structured pacing offers more supports for students to learn the project process and the skills successful projects require.
Online Learning (HS Only)
Online Learning Description for students in grades 9-12
Avalon’s online learning model allows students to participate in Avalon School’s innovative and engaging PBL model in an asynchronous format. Students online will design interest-based projects that meet state standards with the support of their advisor and content specialists. Our asynchronous online program is uniquely situated to support students in designing independent projects that can also take advantage of community-based resources, such as internships. The Avalon Online Program will allow students greater flexibility to determine anytime, anywhere learning.
Students enrolled in the Online Program will be given the opportunity to participate in in-person extracurriculars and attend in-person school on Fridays for additional tutoring support or to participate in an SEL elective activity to engage with their peers. With the in-person option on Fridays, online students can connect with peers in the Avalon community and also engage in anytime-anywhere learning. Furthermore, Avalon’s Online Program will allow students who will benefit from an online learning program to remain in the Avalon community and participate in Avalon’s unique PBL model.
Students may choose to opt-in to the online program each semester. Therefore, if they are not thriving online, they may return to in-person learning at Avalon. Avalon students struggling with daily in-person instruction may also choose to enroll in the online program each semester. New students may come to Avalon that want to eventually attend school in-person and could use a semester online as a bridge to full in-person learning. Avalon’s flexibility to move between programs provides a unique opportunity for students in one setting.
What does a day look like?
Avalon’s online program involves daily online interactions with their teacher(s). In conjunction with their advisor, the students will design a structured schedule for instruction and learning. Online students will be required to share a daily schedule with their advisor to meet attendance requirements.
Students will also design projects related to their interests that meet state standards and regularly meet with content specialists. Common, consistent use of online platforms and tools will be provided to all students, and all online students will be trained in how to use these online organization tools and information systems. Students online will also complete the digital literacy standards and digital citizenship training to strengthen student safety and privacy. Finally, students will have the option to attend in person SEL elective sessions each Friday for community building.