The Appalachian State University Academy at Elkin opened in August 2022 in partnership with Elkin City Schools.

Innovative School Model

The Academy at Elkin is committed to creating an innovative learning space for students and staff.  We are challenging the status quo and rethinking what school should look like for students and teachers.  Our innovative model allows us to better meet the needs of all students while also considering the workload of teachers.

Here’s how “school” at the Academy at Elkin might look a little different from other, more traditional schools:

  • Students are assigned to a grade level span where teachers work on a team using co-teaching practices to meet the needs of all learners.  Students don’t have just one teacher but a team of teachers.

  • Every grade level span has a Curriculum Coach and an Interventionist who provide extra academic support to students.  This means that students receive more individualized attention to help them meet their academic goals. 

  • learning lab block is built into the daily schedule where specialists (art, music, STEM, media, and PE teachers) push into classrooms to integrate arts, literacy, and movement into science and social studies classes.  This learning lab is in addition to a daily special/exploratory class that students attend.

  • A daily school-wide recess time encourages students to play outside, use their imagination, and develop interpersonal and social skills. The entire school has recess at the same time allowing cross-grade level interactions while fostering creative play.

  • Every Friday is Enrichment Day. Students are engaged in tutoring, interventions, and personalized and exploration-based learning to support their academic learning.  They also attend clubs and choice activities allowing them to explore their curiosities and interests.  App State and local community members partner with the school to facilitate the Enrichment Day.

  • App State supports students by providing special programming, field trips, and resources to enhance the learning program.  They also provide professional development for teachers and staff members.

  • Many of the teachers and staff members at the Academy at Elkin have advanced degrees.  They all use evidence-based strategieswhen making instructional decisions.

The Academy at Elkin engages in monthly QUEST to prioritize exploration-based learning and foster community connections. QUEST days go beyond traditional classroom settings.  They encourage students to delve into experiential and hands-on activities that spark curiosity and creativity. Through interactive projects, community-based trips, and collaborative initiatives, mini-Mountaineers not only expand their knowledge but also develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. The emphasis on exploration-based learning enhances academic understanding and cultivates a love for discovery and lifelong learning. The community connections formed during these monthly events create a deeper sense of belonging and contribute to a positive and supportive learning environment.

See our exploration-based learning model in action!

Make Your Trail: Appalachian State University Academy at Elkin

A learner-centered community

The Academy at Elkin is a learner-centered community that promotes exploration-based learning. Students are encouraged to think deeply and critically about learning that is meaningful and relevant to their culture, lives, and future. Exploration-based learning promotes:

  • Curiosity
  • Exploration
  • Discovery
  • Inquiry
  • Integrated content
  • Growth mindset
  • Constructivism

 An emphasis on early literacy is also a primary focus of the school. This includes the implementation of a literacy workshop approach where students receive adaptive, guided, small group instruction. The goal is to improve and enrich literacy via immersive reading and writing instruction.


We empower learners to Question, Understand, Explore, Share, and Try. 

Together, we are on a QUEST!


The Academy at Elkin is committed to providing an inclusive, welcoming, and learner-centered environment focused on the whole person. We empower our learning community to ask questions, explore their curiosities, make connections, and develop skills for lifelong learning.

Core Commitments

  1. Use students’ strengths, interests, and knowledge to develop relevant and integrated content while embracing growth mindset practices.
  2. Promote discovery, inquiry, and critical thinking through authentic learning experiences. 
  3. Incorporate service-learning through meaningful partnerships with the university and local community.
  4. Foster leadership opportunities and increase student agency to develop responsible citizens.

Core Values

The Academy at Elkin's core values of Honesty, Integrity, Kindness, and Excellence (HIKE) guide our efforts towards sustaining a positive school culture and behavior support system.

Our mini-Mountaineers work individually and collaboratively to demonstrate these values.  Restorative meetings centered on community development and building relationships help us to resolve conflicts and continue to learn together.