Each aspect of our program is designed to enable students to cultivate personal, academic, and professional excellence.

Our Learning Philosophy

ATI aims to offer adolescents a school that blends experiential and intellectual learning with opportunities for real creativity and work. We lay a foundation for success in life for all students through our core classes and then individualize the school experience for each student through our one-on-one coaching, our elective offerings and our support for independent student work.

Student Coaching

“The coaching model is different from the traditional conception of pedagogy, where there’s a presumption that, after a certain point, the student no longer needs instruction…Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.” –Atul Gawande

Coaching is central to our middle school and high school programs at ATI. Every student at ATI has a coach — a staff member who works one-on-one with a student throughout their ATI experience. Students and coaches meet every other week to connect, to discuss progress and challenges and to problem solve together.

At the heart of our coaching practice is a belief that each student should have an adult at school who deeply knows them and is fully committed to supporting their development as a learner and as a capable young person. Coaching at ATI is grounded in expert guidance from someone devoted to and capable of helping adolescents grow and flourish. It’s grounded also in a strong personal connection—between an adolescent and a coach who owns creating a relationship of profound trust. From these two fundaments emerges guidance on adolescent life—on learning and beyond—that is personalized and adaptive, observational and strategic, deep and meaningful.

The entire program at ATI is mediated by the coaching relationship to ensure that our vast offerings and ambitious vision are delivered to the student in a way that is handcrafted, meaningful, and impactful.

ATI Middle School Program (Grades 7-8)

Academic Core

Our middle school program fosters students' development of intellectual excellence, social confidence, and executive functioning, while providing a robust foundation of knowledge through our two integrated core academic programs: Humanities and STEM. In Humanities, lessons and discussions centered around history and literature encourage critical thinking and understanding of self and society, while enabling students to hone their writing and research skills through related work, feedback, and one-on-one coaching. ATI Middle School's STEM presents science in a way that proceeds from observation to principle to application, with students acting as discoverers rather than mere learners at every step. In mathematics, students are introduced to concepts in an exploratory, discussion-oriented format; students then apply and demonstrate their knowledge in various ways, from practice of individual procedures to programming algorithms and engaging collaboratively with complex, highly creative problem-solving challenges. Additionally, students take Latin to develop formal grammatical knowledge and to improve their English vocabulary through recognition of etymology.

Beyond Academics

Academics are foundational to successful growth, but academics alone do not meet an adolescent’s needs. ATI offer students the opportunity to create themselves through purposeful engagement with every facet of human life. Our Physical Expressions program supports students in developing healthy habits while exposing them to new traditions and practices through units of study based on their interests, from rock climbing, to skateboarding to yoga. Creative Expressions offer students the chance to develop their imagination, creativity, and related skills through activities like painting, sculpture, culinary arts, and film-making. Students frequently work with local artists and businesses to gain first-hand knowledge of expertise; this allows them to see the variety of careers in the world, and lays a foundation for them to make knowledgeable life choices in the year to come.

Practical skills like budgeting, leadership, collaboration, and project management cannot be learned solely through lessons and artificial “practice scenarios” they must be experienced as a process that involves real stakes, where one’s actions matter. In addition to self-generated projects, students take ownership of school-related activities including management of classroom activity accounts and take responsibility for using it to plan several major activities (along with related logistics and communications). Many college students struggle to manage a lunch budget; our Middle School students engage in real entrepreneurial activities, because they can — and these experiences of choice, decision-making, and personal ownership stay with them for life.

Adolescence is a social time, and the whole of our program is structured to support students in learning to function as members of a community. Multi-day trips, regular group meetings and discussions, and community work also support students’ growth during this socially sensitive period.

High School Core Curriculum

Our core curriculum establishes the intellectual and socio-emotional foundations for students to thrive. Our three core classes, required for all students every year at ATI, are Socratic Humanities, Life Design, and Analysis.

  • What are the ideas that have shaped our world? How do we understand what is true, what is good, what is right? What should individuals, communities, and cultures value—and why—and what does it look like when they do so? Our Socratic Humanities core class engages students in exploring these fundamental questions through deep reading of seminal texts ranging from Plato and Siddhartha to Martin Luther King Jr and Maya Angelou. Through using the text as our teacher and engaging in rich dialogue with each other, students develop their ability to analyze, listen, share, and think for themselves. And they develop deep knowledge of and facility with the big ideas of the humanities, empowering them to think their way into the life and world they choose.

  • Who are you? What kind of life do you want to create for yourself? How can you better understand yourself and develop agency and responsibility for your own choices and actions? What practices and habits support healthy development and our capacity to thrive in school, family, friendships, and professionally? Our Life Design class supports student exploration of these questions—and mastery of these practices—in small group settings and enables students to better understand themselves and to develop mindsets and skills to help them become who they want to be.

  • What does it mean to think like a mathematician? To understand how to approach any particular problem and to apply concepts and discern patterns? To develop hypothesis, test them, and to deploy a set of intellectual tools to uncover solutions? Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, math has served as a model for critical aspects of human reasoning. Our math core classes, covering Euclid’s Elements, Algebra, Statistics, and Computer Science, develop deep mathematical knowledge in a variety of useful and practical domains. Equally important, these classes develop and exercise reasoning and problem-solving skills that transcend math and will be valuable to students professionally, in their personal lives and in navigating a world increasingly characterized by demanding, rapid change.

High School Electives

In addition to our core curriculum, we offer a wide range of elective courses for students to widen the breadth of their academic foundations and deepen their intellectual, creative and entrepreneurial interests.

Our elective courses include classes that prepare students to develop their knowledge across a range of academic subjects and to hone their intellectual skills. Many of our classes prepare students to excel in college, such as AP history classes, AP science classes, foreign languages, literature, and creative writing.

We also offer a range of creative and practical electives such as design thinking, painting, art appreciation, film-making, and makerspace. These classes allow student to develop their artistic abilities and vision, practice their technical expertise using physical and digital tools to design, build, and create things, and hone their unique perspectives and understandings of form and function.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Designation

ATI St. Louis is earning its IB designation in 2019-20. The benefits to students of becoming an IB school include that they will:

  • be encouraged to think independently and drive their own learning;

  • take part in programs of education that can lead them to some of the highest ranking universities around the world;

  • become more culturally aware, through the development of a second language;

  • be able to engage with people in an increasingly globalized, rapidly changing world.

Independent Work

One of our core values at ATI is “The Dignity of Work.” Central to the ATI experience is the opportunity for students to engage in a variety of “real work” to help them connect their interests and abilities to the world beyond school.

Work can take many forms. It includes students collaborating with staff to design, create and work on their own projects over a quarter, semester or the year. It includes students finding internships with local business or organizations to build their understanding of various industries and types of work. It also can include supporting students in pursuing a part-time job while at ATI related to their interests to develop skills and perspective, help them get familiar with professional contexts and challenges and build a network and portfolio of relevance.

Life After ATI

Our students are excited to translate their ideas, knowledge and skills to the world beyond ATI. We work closely with each student throughout their time at ATI to clarify their goals for what's next and to make sure they are prepared with the resources and tools to reach those goals.

Most of our students are passionate about continuing their education in college and using their ATI education to get more out of higher education. We work closely with each student to explore the range of colleges where they will thrive, to understand what's needed to gain admissions, and to support their choices, work and preparation at ATI to ensure they are set up to enroll in a college of their choice.

Some of our students want to start their own ventures, through creating a small business, doing independent contracting or by going straight into a professional role. We help them understand what's needed to establish themselves, to test their ideas and to help them be set up for authentic success.

Others still want to pursue their creative and artistic talents by going to design, film or art school and building on their portfolios from ATI. For those students, we help them understand the quality of work necessary to be accepted to creative schools, how to make choices at ATI that will enable them to maximize their artistic progress and support them in building an impressive portfolio of work.

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