Justin Baiardo is the founder and visionary behind the Explore Learning model. In August, 2014, Mr. Baiardo, along with his team of talented and experienced teachers, opened the first Explore Academy campus in Albuquerque, NM. With student choice, authentic teaching and learning, post-secondary readiness, and increased accountability at the forefront of the innovative educational model, the first campus thrived, becoming one of the highest rated schools in the state of NM, earning “A” ratings from the New Mexico Public Education Department year after year.
Mr. Baiardo, along with other core staff members from the NM campus, have developed the Explore Learning model to be consistent yet adaptable, thus allowing Explore Academy to open new campuses and offer its innovative educational experience to students across the country. Explore Academy has launched campuses in Las Vegas, NV (2020) and Las Cruces, NM (2021) with several more campuses in the planning stages in different locations around the country.
Explore Academy will provide each student with a personalized educational experience through the power of student choice, allowing each student to create a unique educational pathway in preparation for a college future.
The curricular approach and educational philosophy employed at Explore Academy is based on three core ideals: increased student accountability using a standards-driven system in course design and academic reporting, selectivity and student choice for all classes to promote both a customized and individualized form of education, and college preparation through the implementation of a curriculum which increasingly resembles and simulates college academics in structure, rigor, and content.
Explore Academy serves students in grades 6-12 (although K-12 is currently expanding at the Albuquerque campus location).
The school year is divided into shorter learning modules rather than traditional semester or year-long courses. Students in grades 6-7 attend four, 44-day terms (quarterly learning modules) and students in grades 8-12 attend eight, 22-day terms (monthly learning modules).
During each term, students take five classes, called seminars, with each focusing on a specific set of standards for students to master. Within the seven-period day, students have two free periods, called flex periods, during which they study, collaborate, eat lunch, receive tutoring and other supports, etc. In the final days of each term, students take exit exams to demonstrate proficiency in all standards from each seminar for that term.
Between terms, there is a one- or two-day term break during which there is no school. This allows for students and teachers to finalize exit exam grades and prepare for the start of the next term.
We believe that individual attention is crucial to student success, so all class sizes at Explore Academy are kept small, with an average class size of about 14, to allow our teachers to focus on each student as an individual learner with specific needs and characteristics. With class sizes small, no student is lost in the crowd; every student’s path is valued and monitored as they progress through the school year.
The required uniform at Explore Academy has one basic component - all students must have an item of Explore Academy apparel as the outermost layer of clothing at all times while on campus. This dress code policy provides consistency and security, ensuring that all students on campus are readily identified as students who belong on campus, while also fostering school spirit and a sense of community.
There are a large variety of color and style options to allow all students to express themselves through their apparel while still adhering to the school’s dress code. Our school store offers t-shirts, hoodies, zip-ups, sweatshirts, long sleeve t-shirts, v-necks, ringer t-shirts, and raglan t-shirts in a variety of colors and sizes ranging from Youth S to Men’s 3XL. With many colors and styles to choose from, students can create their look while still remaining in dress code all year long.
Along with general education supplies (pencils, notebooks, etc.), all students at Explore Academy use one main school supply: a Chromebook. While the school's model is not online in nature, students do use technology as a core tool to supplement instruction. These Chromebooks are integrated into all aspects of the school’s educational model and help the students access information, develop technology skills, increase communication skills, and complete and store school work on the school’s Google Drive for easy access. The use of Chromebooks also helps Explore Academy campuses remain almost totally paperless, helping to decrease paper waste and promote sustainable environmental practices.