AURORA | Colorado’s youngest entrepreneurs got a sneak peek of their future school this Saturday as the Clara Brown Entrepreneurial Academy hosted a meet and greet for students who were accepted to the new magnet school’s inaugural class and their families.
The Clara Brown Entrepreneurial Academy (CBEA) will open this fall as one of APS’ two new magnet schools being built as part of the Blueprint APS process. The other, the Charles Burrell Visual and Performing Arts Campus, will provide education in the arts to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The school’s namesake, Clara Brown, is believed to be one of the first Black people to settle in Colorado. Born into slavery in Virginia in 1800, Brown became a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist in Colorado during the Gold Rush and helped newly freed slaves relocate to Colorado until her death in 1885. She was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, which was present at the meet and greet to educate families about Brown’s legacy.
Eventually, the district plans to open a new magnet school focused on a different career track in each of the district’s seven geographic regions, though plans for the continuation of Blueprint are currently up in the air after the board rejected the superintendent’s recommendation for the next step of the plan at its March meeting.
The CBEA will open on the site of Wheeling Elementary, and will eventually serve students in kindergarten through 8th grade. It will open in the fall for students in kindergarten through third grade, and will add an additional grade each year.
So far, 200 students have been accepted to the school, principal Laura Burke said. There will be 50 students per grade level with two classrooms of 25 students per grade. Applications are open for the school’s waitlist, and Burke encouraged families who are still interested to apply because some family’s plans may change between now and the fall. Students were selected through a lottery with no additional requirements.
“It was important we weren’t creating barriers to attend,” Burke said.
At the meet and greet, families got to speak with some of the local and national partners the school will be working with, learn about the curriculum and meet with teachers, fill out paperwork and play games. Burke said she was encouraged by how many families attended the event.
The school will use the same curriculum as the rest of the district to ensure that it is meeting the required standards, but will use a project-based learning approach that sets it apart, instructional coach Lori Large told The Sentinel.
Students will have entrepreneur-focused lessons about how to come up with ideas for products, conduct market research, create a business model and promote their ideas to other people, Large said. Whether or not they choose to focus on business when they’re older, the skills are designed to help them as they pursue a career or higher education.
“Parents are really excited about the idea of their kids getting to do something different,” Large said.
The school will also build social-emotional learning concepts into the school day, which Large said will help give students the tools they need to manage their own emotions and naturally complement their entrepreneurial skills—it’s hard to run a business without the ability to solve conflict or work with a team.
Throughout the school year, community organizations such as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and The District Credit Union will come into the school to teach lessons.
The nonprofit Magnet Schools of America consulted on Clara Brown’s design, and the academy is the first magnet school in Colorado to partner with the nonprofit. The nonprofit will provide support to the school and help keep it in line with best practices for magnet schools across the country.
Heidi Targee, who provided consulting, said that more and more schools nationwide are interested in entrepreneurship but Clara Brown is one of the few that has built an entire curriculum around it. She recently visited an entrepreneurship-focused elementary school in Nashville and said she was impressed with what she saw.
“The students own the learning in a way that’s internalized differently,” she said.
A more rigorous educational experience is what parents said drew them to Clara Brown.
Zoe Roberts, who operates a salon and has a son who will be entering third grade at Clara Brown, said she liked the focus of the school since she’s a business owner herself. She hopes her son will get more personalized attention at Clara Brown and will benefit from the project-based learning model.
Kijana and Patrick Bailey were at the meet and greet with their son Donovan, who will be entering second grade at Clara Brown. The couple hopes Donovan will get more opportunities to pursue STEM subjects at Clara Brown then are available at his current school.
“We call him our little engineer,” Kijana Bailey said. The family also hopes he will be challenged more.
“We’re looking for a little more intense learning, not just accepting the baseline,” Patrick Bailey said.