acera school


Learn what you love. Love what you learn.

About Acera

Acera, the Massachusetts School of Science, Creativity and Leadership, is a progressive non-profit STEAM school serving high-ability students in grades K through 8th. At Acera, students learn by ability, not age; in a supportive, energetic environment, enabled by highly motivated, experienced teacher-entrepreneurs.

Our mission is to:

Acera was founded in 2010 with 30 students. In 2013, the school found a permanent home at 5 Lowell Ave in Winchester and currently serves 115 students. Our state-of-the-art facility includes a MakerSpace and a fully equipped science lab.

Our After School Programs are open to non-Acera students. We offer rolling enrollment based on availability.


Josh Briggs

Acera Engineering Teacher, Math Mentor, Woodshop manager
B.S. Civil Engineering, University of New Hampshire

In this video, Josh explains how students discover engineering at Acera. Josh’s bio will be posted here soon! Look for Josh’s construction sessions — make a Strandbeest, a teepee, a tree house, a catapult and more — in weeks 5,6,8,9 and 10.

Mel Carden

Chef, for goodness sake foods and Acera Cooking Teacher

Chef Mel (Carden), owner of for goodness sake foods, changed her career to follow her passion: cooking. After years in the corporate world planning events and running marketing campaigns, Mel started her own business as a private chef in Winchester. She also has a home bakery & food vendor bike and is passionate about teaching cooking workshops for all ages. Our students love her Creativity Morning cooking station on Wednesdays! Mel writes a culinary column for The Winchester Star and hosts and produces a culinary show, Ate Minutes with Chef Mel, on local WinCAM stations. Look for her afternoon cooking class in week 6!

Marie Delaney

Acera Craft and Construction Coach

For Marie, there is so much more to woodworking than just working with wood. Trained in furniture making at the world-renowned North Bennet Street School in Boston, her teaching focuses on developing character and intellectual capacity as well as technical skills. At Acera, Marie works to build hand skills along with an understanding of materials, tools, processes and a commitment to excellence. In a previous life, Marie worked as a furniture maker for la Sagrada Familia She still crafts individual pieces on commission, and enjoys creative lathe work (yes, we had to look that up, too.) Look for Marie’s many offerings in weeks 4 through 10, where students will be able to make a boombox-style iPod amplifyer, marshmallow crossbows, or can join her in a two-week session crafting a piece of colonial furniture the way it was done in colonial times.

Danny Fain

Software Developer, STEM Teacher, Game Designer
B.S., Geoscience, MIT

The desire to understand how learning happens, and how best to prepare kids for the world of the 21st century, drives Danny’s quest into serious games. Through 15 years as a STEM teacher (in a variety of schools and student populations, including at the Learning Prep School in Newton, MA), Danny increasingly immersed himself in the classroom use of computer games & simulations. Coupled with his previous career as a software developer, this experience gave Danny a multi-level perspective into the uses and limitations of educational software. Danny teaches table top game design in our After School program. He was a team leader and coach in the Learning Games Network’s Game Design summer camps of 2010 – 2013, and the lead instructor of the Videogame Design workshop at URJ’s 6Points Sci/Tech summer camp in 2014 and 2015. Danny also has a new game about endangered-species conservation out in app stores, for which he was the lead-designer on a multinational team. Danny earned his SB in Geoscience at MIT, and he also completed the Teacher Education Program there. This summer, Danny joins our STEAM camp to teach table top game design in week 1 and digital game design in week 11.

Eric Fishman

Acera Cross-Classroom Teacher
B.A., English, Yale University

Eric joined Acera in 2015 after teaching middle and high school science in a Philadelphia urban charter school, while also studying secondary science education at Penn’s Graduate School of Education. Previously, Eric was Director of a hands-on, experiential summer program for gifted New Haven middle school students, as part of which he taught evolutionary biology. In addition to being a science nerd, however, Eric is deeply passionate about literature. As an undergraduate, his English study focused on poetry, with a particular emphasis on Milton, the Victorians, and poetic translation. In his spare time, Eric is a cellist and chamber musician, and also enjoys distance running and backpacking. Look for Eric’s sessions in molecular gastronomy in week 3!

Kate Fractal

Acera Teacher of Mathematics, Computer Technology and Electronics
B.S., Electrical Engineering with Mathematics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
M.Ed., Secondary Mathematics, Boston University

Kate engages gifted mathematical minds with a richness and a plan, customized for their needs to inspire and enable learning years beyond what is typically offered. She brings five years of electrical engineering and programming work experience to helping students create their own technology-enabled projects, while learning the fundamental concepts of computer science and engineering. This summer, Kate will be teaching interactive storytelling with the programming tool Twine in week 5.

Michael Hirsch

Acera Science Teacher, Lab Manager, Curriculum Creator
B.S., Molecular Biology, Clark University
M.A.T. Biology, Salem State University

Michael began his work life as a scientist in the exciting world of Kendall Square biotech, researching therapeutics for metabolic disease and inflammation. After helping to place over 20 drugs in clinical trials and frequently publishing papers in the field of diabetes, Michael decided that his favorite part of being a scientist was teaching others and sharing his passion of science. He pursued a masters degree and Massachusetts teaching certifications, and taught Biology and Chemistry in public high schools for 3 years before joining Acera. Michael’s belief — that everyone can be a scientist — is reflected in his summer offerings: Michael will be teaching biology and chemistry basics to young elementary students via real experiments in our science lab, and he will take middle school students into the world of DNA. Look for his sessions in week 2 and 5. Michael talks about his approach to teaching in this clip.

Anastasia Leyden

Acera Intermediate Elementary School Teacher
B.A. Williams College, M.Ed. Lesley University

Anastasia studied comparative literature as an undergrad and is especially interested in how we can learn by comparing different cultures across time and space. She worked as a medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years, which provides her with a rich STEM background. She completed her M.Ed. with a simultaneous full-time internship at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols Lower School. She is certified in Elementary Education and was a lead teacher in third grade before joining Acera. Anastasia has two young children who surprise her daily with their keen intuition and observations. Her varied interests include reading a good book, gardening, and scuba diving. This summer, Anastasia will take kids to explore ancient Egypt with her in week 7 and 8.

Kim Machnik

Upper Elementary School Teacher
B.A. International and Global Studies, Brandeis University
Kim came to the Acera School from Heifer International, where she specialized in curriculum design, teacher training, and global education outreach. Kim has taught elementary gifted students in a variety of settings and schools, and is passionate about teaching children to be global citizens of a healthy, thriving planet. Kim also very successfully launched our first summer program in 2015, and will be teaching some of her favorite subjects — from strategic thinking to neighborhood ecology — during weeks 2 and 3 this year.

John Maloney

Staff Researcher, MIT Media Lab, Lifelong Kindergarten Group

More about the co-creator of Scratch will be posted here soon. Visit John’s MIT page and the Lifelong Kindergarten page for more info. John will be leading students in an exploration of his latest ‘Learn to Code’-creation, called GP, in week 1.

Nicole Notaro

Acera Upper Elementary School Teacher
B.A., Child Development, Tufts University
M.Ed., Education, Child Development, Tufts University

Nicole joined the Acera staff in 2014 after teaching at the Atrium School for 7 years. She is a passionate, enthusiastic and creative teacher with a strong desire to help each learner grow to his or her fullest potential. Nicole believes teaching is an art form that requires the swift coordination of subject content and knowledge of ones’ own students, a process she finds intellectually challenging and extremely rewarding. This summer, Nicole will be teaching some of her students’ favorites in weeks 8, 9 and 10: Biomimicry, Playground Science, and Forensic Science!

Hannah Pelton

Acera Lower Elementary Teacher

B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT; M.Ed., Boston University

Hannah has always loved working with children and been fascinated by how the brain works. During her time at MIT, she combined these interests by working in labs that studied childhood cognition. However, she found that interacting with children simply as test subjects was not enough, so she dove into education by interning at the Museum of Science and earning a master’s degree in early childhood education at BU. Hannah brings her love of science, dance, improv comedy, and play to her teaching, engaging students in hands-on, brains-on learning. This summer, Hannah will engage our youngest learners in hands-on robotics and a one-of-a-kind Mini Med School in weeks 3, 4, and 6!

Anthony Reynolds

Acera Art and Music Teacher

Watch Anthony Reynolds talk about how he teaches art at Acera. This summer, Anthony will bring his many talents to our camp in weeks 6 through 10, including sessions on Mural Arts, Music Video Making, Create Your Own Comic Strip and Self Portraiture.

Vanessa Roman

Acera Teacher in Friendship Skills, Kinetic Mathematics, Human Sexuality, and Theater Arts
M.A. Magna Cum Laude, Theatre Arts, Salem State College

Prior to joining Acera, Vanessa was a Yoga Instructor. At Acera, she teaches Kinetic Math for young students, Human Sexuality in the Middle School, Theatre Arts for all ages during Creativity Morning, Friendship Skill-Building during recess, and leadership in our After School Program. Vanessa specializes in understanding, honoring and experiencing the joy and uniqueness of each child. This summer, she will teach her popular improv theatre sessions (weeks 9 and 11), as well as a creative outdoor arts session (week 9 AM) in collaboration with Acera Art and Music teacher Anthony Reynolds. Vanessa talks about her work at Acera in this clip.

Dermot Smyth

Film Teacher B.F.A., Film and Anthropology, Dublin Business School of Arts
M.F.A., Film and Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin University

Dermot Smyth is a freelance filmmaker and educator living in Melrose, MA. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honors Distinction from the Dublin Business School of Arts in Dublin, Ireland, and has a Masters in Film Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin University. He has worked for major network television shows airing on the Animal Planet, History and Discovery Channels, and has contributed to the television series “ART 21st Century”, airing on PBS. As an educator, Dermot has taught film studies in Ireland, and is part of the teaching faculty for the New York Film Academy at Harvard University. His film work has screened in Ireland and in the US, notably at the Rhode Island School of Art and Design Museum. He has served on the Filmmakers Collaborative nominating committee. Dermot won Boston RAW Artists Filmmaker of the Year, 2012. Look for his Film Club and Documentary Filmmaking session in weeks 1 and 2!

Gene Stamell

Math Block Teacher
B.A., English, Trinity College
M.ED, Tufts University

Throughout his 35-year career as a second and third grade teacher (primarily in the Carlisle, MA Public Schools), Gene loved developing multi-disciplinary lessons and curriculum strands. He often used music and drama to motivate his students and to enrich the classroom experience. As a math teacher at Acera, Gene tries to bring joy, laughter, and a sense of curiosity to his young learners. He wants students to ask and explore questions, to collaborate as data collectors and problem-solvers, to appreciate each others’ discoveries and challenges, and to connect classroom learning to the outside world. Gene will lead his popular, challenging and fun Puzzles’n Games session in weeks 2 and 4 this year.

Mark Weinzierl

Acera After School Physics and Science Teacher

More about Mark will be posted here soon. Watch for his sessions in week 1 through 7, including Metal Casting, How Stuff Works, Outdoor Survival and Forensic Science.

Chris Woodard

Art Teacher Chris has been an artist all her life. From the age of 3, digging in the dirt to make African Masks with her father, to today, she has pursued numerous creative outlets — painting, cooking, sewing, knitting, gardening, and woodworking among them. After working as a graphic designer for 30 years, Chris decided to follow her true passion, earning a painting degree from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This summer, Chris will bring her talents and creativity to Acera again, working with children in a variety of art forms, from drawing and painting to knitting and making paper. Look for her sessions in weeks 1, 7, 9, 10 and 11.

Amy Yushik

Intermediate Elementary School Teacher
B.A., Psychology, Special Education & Elementary Education, Marist College
M.Ed., Marist College

Amy joined the Acera staff in 2012 after teaching abroad for several years. She has visited over 30 countries and enjoys bringing her curiosity about the world into the classroom, encouraging students to learn about other cultures and look at problems from a variety of perspectives. Amy believes students and teachers should form a partnership around learning and many decisions about the running of the classroom and curriculum are made as part of class meetings. Students feel their voices are heard and are free to make suggestions, ask questions and state their opinions in a safe environment. Amy has been on maternity leave during the 2015/16 school year and we are excited to have her back teaching two fun sessions in week 11!


To register for our summer STEAM camp, please fill out our registration form and send it to us at Acera — either via e-mail at, or via snail mail.



Policies & Procedures


Can there be too much of a good thing? Never! But here is some help as you browse through 100 sessions to pick from. Check out the overview below of what is offered when. If you click on each week’s date in the table below, you will get to detailed session descriptions, faculty information and prices. Weeks, session titles and prices are also listed on our registration form. Or you can browse all offerings week by week from our home page.