Alma del Mar

27 Feb, 2015



Alma del Mar (“Soul of the Sea”) Charter School is a K-8 Expeditionary Learning public charter school that opened in August 2011 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Alma del Mar is committed to setting all of the students on a college trajectory and challenging them to be service-minded leaders. By engaging in a rigorous academic program with an emphasis on meaningful work, students master essential skills and content, take ownership of their learning and think boldly while addressing complex academic and community issues. Alma del Mar is the only Expeditionary Learning School in Southeastern Massachusetts. Since opening, Alma del Mar has added an additional grade each year and will continue to grow until serves a total of 360 scholars in grades K-8. In 2013, 71% of students qualified for free and reduced meals, 44% of students are Hispanic while 28% are White and 18% are Black.

Focus Area I:  Collaborative Partnership


Alma del Mar depends primarily on outstanding general education instruction to teach all scholars to speak, listen, read, and write in English. Alma del Mar uses Expeditionary Learning school model where all scholars complete a three-month Expedition in social studies each fall and a three-month Expedition in science each spring.  These expeditions provide opportunities for ELs to continue their English development.

Every day, Alma del Mar scholars participate in an “Expedition” block.  During this hour, scholars explore in depth content in science and social studies.  They systematically engage in an in-depth investigation into a single topic.  This exploration spans several months and takes scholars on trips to destinations ranging from the zoo to science museums to whaling watches.  Scholars come into contact with a wide variety of vocabulary and deepen their background knowledge in a systematic and structured fashion.  Through their final products, scholars capture their learning in writing and in visual displays.  This video walks the viewer through the process of how Alma del Mar designs and implements the expeditionary learning model and how the model supports English learners.

Focus Area II: Collective Responsibility

Teachers at Alma del Mar share responsibility to ensure rapid growth among all scholars. As a small school with a relatively small proportion of English learners, Alma del Mar employs a creative approach to staffing.  Multiple lead teachers who have a background in EL instruction provide direct services to support English learners in their development of speaking and listening skills.  Associate teachers step in to teach during these periods so that the lead teachers are able to pull EL groups.  Similarly, Alma del Mar’s literacy interventionist supports the developing of reading and writing skills through individual reading conferences and small guided reading groups.  This video explores how Alma del Mar structures and supports collaboration and collective responsibility.

Focus Area III: Parental Outreach


Alma del Mar reaches families who do not speak English and cultivates a mindset of educational engagement among these families. Beginning the moment that a family is accepted, Alma del Mar engages in robust efforts to form a relationship with the family.  Teachers conduct home visits with every family every year.  For families who do not speak English, Alma del Mar attempts to match the child with a teacher who shares a common language.  If it is not possible to do so, Alma uses translators to support communication. Every parent has the phone number of every adult in the building.  Parents are encouraged to call or text in their home language to share any and all concerns. The school shares specific academic data with each family at least four times per year; this data is provided in language that is accessible to the family. Parents are invited to be present at the school at any time.  99% of families report feeling welcome at Alma del Mar.  Alma hosts at least one family event per month.

In partnership with the city, Alma del Mar hosts beginning English classes in the evenings.  These classes bring new families into the Alma community, and the families often file applications for their children. Alma del Mar partners with the Immigrants’ Assistance Center to talk with new families as soon as they arrive. The mission of the Immigrants’ Assistance Center is to help immigrants overcome language, cultural and economic barriers, and integrate into the American way of life while maintaining their ethnic identify and pride.  Services include general case management, citizenship education, elderly services, deportation support services and food/clothing. This video explores the recruitment and engagement strategies used by the school.

Dynamic Instruction


For more information visit the school’s website at:

Tools and Resources

Tools and Resources
Collaborative Partnerships/ Expeditionary Learning – Expedition Night June 2014

Flyer advertising the expedition night including the agenda.  Document is in English and Spanish.

Collaborative Partnerships/ Expeditionary Learning – Student Brochure

Sample student brochure created for expedition night.  Brochure is focused on simple machines and includes information on the history, how it works, a diagram and pictures.

Collaborative Partnerships/ Expeditionary Learning – Final Product Revision Checklist

Checklist used to evaluate student work.  Areas of focus include scientific accuracy, understanding and understandable, grammar and punctuation.

Collaborative Partnerships/ Expeditionary Learning – Final Product Rubric

Rubric used to evaluate final student product.  Areas of focus include accuracy, language, structure and mechanics.

Collective Responsibility - FLEP monitoring form

The form is to be used for two consecutive years after students are removed from LEP status and no longer require ESL support

Collective Responsibility – Notes from Scholar Session Sample notes from a scholar session that includes examples of student status updates and next steps by teacher.
Collective Responsibility – Overview of Reading Conferences Provides steps to Structure of a Lower-Elementary Reading Conference created by Caitlin Porter
Parental Outreach – Alma Parent Survey: June 2014 Sample parent survey in English and Spanish used to collect parent feedback in the following areas: health and safety, academic program, school culture, communication, family engagement, and general questions.
Collective Responsibility – Sheltering Ideas List of sheltering strategies used to support English learners in a variety of settings.  Teachers discuss these strategies during the scholar sessions.
Parental Outreach – Community Event Notices Excerpt of event notices to parents and the community in English and Spanish.  Events include expedition night, movie night,  family day of service, and parent conferences

Collaborative Partnerships/ Expeditionary Learning –Conversation Prompts

Conversation prompts are used to facilitate discourse among scholars.  Prompts include agree, build on, connection, disagree, evidence, know and notice.