What is the FAA?

What is the FAA?

Maliha Mahjabin, Writer

With news of next’s year accepted applicants having been announced, you may have been hearing more and more of the FAA around the school or from your peers, especially from those who are involved in the arts. What, exactly, is the FAA though?

The Franklin Arts Academy, or the FAA, is a two to three-year-long core-academic pathway within Franklin High School and is accredited by the Massachusetts Department of Education and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. As of now, the current classes within the program are English 10, 11, and 12, Chemistry 10, Structure of Life 11, and US History 1 and 2. The classes are open-honors and also accommodate those with IEPs and 504 plans.

You may be wondering, how are these classes any different than the run-of-the-mill FHS classes? What sets the program apart is how it utilizes project-based learning that relates to the arts. So, while the average class has traditional forms of assessment like tests, quizzes, and paper assignments, the FAA integrates arts-based projects on top of that. These range from visual projects, like paintings, drawings, and sculptures, to performance-arts-based projects, like theatrical and musical projects, to creative literature, and so on.

Senior Ren Schultz, Vice President of the FAA, had much to say about how project-based learning has helped them in their academic career. Ren said, “I’ve always been a very visual learner, and I think I always thought that the FAA would really help me in my learning— I’ve always really loved learning, but I’ve had a hard time with the way that most classes are structured, and the FAA offers a really good alternative.”

Rayna Popovic, one of the FAA’s junior representatives and co-treasurers, emphasized how these projects supplement traditional assignments and do not replace them. They stated, “You should not expect to completely drift away from normal schoolwork, like, you’re still gonna have quizzes, you’re still gonna have tests, you’re still gonna have ‘regular’ projects that aren’t as creative-based, but then you’re going to have an added element of art on top of that.” They added, “I would say it’s a little bit more—well, it’s more fun, so it doesn’t seem it, but it’s probably a little more challenging than a regular class.”

Furthermore, as the FAA is a cohorts-based program, students are in the same English, History, and Science classes together, with few exceptions. When sophomore Eden Donovan was asked how she felt about the size of the classes and community, she said, “I feel like the environment of the classroom is more… I wanna say, family-like, because you’re with less people than you’d be with in a regular class.” 

Eden also noted that the size of the classes helps students build closer relationships with their peers, which is something that Rayna can attest to. Rayna said, “You really are able to work on that sense of community and that sense of belonging, and it’s much easier to open up about things that you’re really passionate about or bring things to the classroom that you would normally be scared to present when you know all the people in there; it’s easier to be passionate around people who aren’t going to judge your passion.”

However, these cohort-modeled classes are not fit for everyone, and Ren mentioned how several people who had joined during their sophomore year had left the next year because of this reason. It had, however, worked largely in their favor—they said, “That exposure to a smaller group of people really helped me become comfortable talking in front of others, and has now helped me become much more comfortable talking in front of big groups of people.”

Although this may sound great, there are several requirements that students must fulfill to graduate with FAA distinction; students must complete three service credits per year to participate in FAA field trips and activities, they must complete a Capstone Project in their senior year English class, and, starting with the class of 2025, students must be in at least 5 FAA classes to graduate. This does not give students much room to take alternative classes, such as AP classes, to those already in the program.

Mr. Grossman, the director of FHS’s theatre company and the FAA itself, shared what he had to say about this requirement. He said, “I wouldn’t recommend it [the FAA], truly, to anyone that is strictly trying to take APs, and push that Advanced Placement model—FAA doesn’t really have a ton of wiggle room for something like that. I think both are incredibly stringent in their expectations, and either way you’re gonna graduate with a specific distinction going forward.”

So, is joining the FAA worth it? Many of the students seem to think so.

Ren said, “[The FAA] helped me workshop a lot of the personal skills you need to have throughout high school, but in a less stressful way, and I think that that was 100% worth it.” They also mentioned that their high school experience would be completely different were it not for the FAA, and that they value what it has given and taught them.

Similarly, Rayna said, “It’s definitely benefitted me as a person. I’m more confident now. I was this tiny little freshman coming back from COVID and I had no social or any public speaking skills at all, and now I’m… me, and I can speak in front of like 70 people.”

If you are someone who is interested in art, benefits from project-based learning, are either an incoming freshman or sophomore, and are still interested despite the requirements and stipulations, the FAA might be the program for you! Unfortunately, applications for this year have closed, but stay tuned for information regarding applications next year—In past years, the process has included teacher and guidance recommendations and an interview with Mr. Grossman. We hope to see you next year!