Academics             Lower School            Middle School

Lower Campus Overview (Grades 1-6A)

DNA Prep Academy is a diverse campus built on the foundation of continuous and purposeful development in all endeavors of life.  At DNA, all of our students are taught to strive for excellence, to pursue their passions, and are provided with the tools needed to develop into the best versions of themselves academically, artistically, athletically, and as world citizens in a college and career focused education environment.  We’ve also focused on creating an environment that inspires by naming our grade 1-5 students as innovators, and our grade 6-8 students as scholars, teachers become professors, lessons become lectures, tutors become academic coaches. Our elementary curriculum focuses on guiding our innovators as they gain confidence and agility in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science. Students develop the foundational skills for critical thinking and listening, comprehension, research, and creative exploration. For our lower campus, our grades span first through 6A and programing is grouped by grade bands. Our primary grade band includes grades 1 and 2, our intermediate grade band includes grades 3-5. Our 6th-grade is part of a program model where we have created two options that meets the developmental needs of incoming 6th grades students.

6 th Grade Middle School Transition Model

Everyone can agree that 6th grade is a transitory grade from childhood to adolescence and that sixth-grade students don’t all mature at the same time.  For some parents, social, emotional, and developmental readiness is major concerns. Parents must weigh whether or not to place their child in a traditional middle school where their student may be exposed to older adolescents before they are emotionally and developmentally ready – all while navigating the demands of multiple classes and teacher expectations. This can be emotionally overwhelming and lead to academic challenges for many students. While on the flip side, you have sixth-grade students who thrive on the new-found independence, access to advance coursework and more electives, the increased social connections that comes with clubs, competitive sports and, most importantly for parents, the earlier implementation of their child’s seven-year graduation plan. We have taken these concerns into consideration and have built a two-program choice for families with students entering the 6th grade.

Families are now able to choose between two academic programs to meet their 6th grader’s developmental needs:

  • In our 6A program, the grade 6A scholar athlete/artist attends class that is part of the traditional elementary school. These students are taught as a self-contained class that follows a very similar structure as grades 1 through 5 during the academic portion of the program. These students would then join the rest of the middle school program in the afternoon in our athlete/artist development program.
  • In our 6B program, the grade 6B scholar athlete/artist is fully integrated into our middle school college prep (grades 6B-8) blended hybrid program (For more details please review the curriculum outline for our Middle School Scholars). These scholars receive our personalized academics curriculum – like our 7th and 8th graders. In the afternoon or morning, depending on the sport, our 6B students are full participates in our athlete/artist development program.
  • In both programs, scholars receive instruction and support in the transition planning for high school and college.
Class Size

Research shows that students do better in smaller class settings, and for that reason at DNA Prep Academy our classroom size is designed for a 24-student maximum and a 12:1 student to teacher ratio. This class size is further reduced to a student-teacher ratio of 5:1 to facilitate reading and math small group instruction. These smaller classrooms help our instructors provide a more effective education for their students. Additional benefits of smaller class sizes include:  

  • Students learn faster 
  • Students receive more attention 
  • Students receive more feedback 
  • Students receive more hands-on learning 
  • Students perform better on all subjects
  • Students collaborate better
  • Students build their social skills 
Our Approach is Student Centered

We provide students with Individualized attention to build upon our curriculum. This helps in closing any learning gaps and increases motivation while expanding on the student’s strengths and confidence. In the future, this individualized attention will help students determine their career goals and post-secondary plans. This process starts in elementary grades 1-6A with an assessment of a student’s strengths and weaknesses, along with a determination on how to build a strong academic foundation for future success. This is followed up at the middle grades with a more comprehensive plan which develops and incorporates the long-term goals of a student. 

Individualized Attention

We provide students with Individualized attention to build upon our curriculum. This helps in closing any learning gaps and increases motivation while expanding on the student’s strengths and confidence. In the future, this individualized attention will help students determine their career goals and post-secondary plans. This process starts in elementary grades 1-6A with an assessment of a student’s strengths and weaknesses, along with a determination on how to build a strong academic foundation for future success. This is followed up at the middle grades with a more comprehensive plan which develops and incorporates the long-term goals of a student. 

Interdisciplinary and Experiential Learning

Utilizing the methodologies and frameworks of experiential and project-based learning, our curriculum is interdisciplinary and empowers students to apply knowledge of core content within and across curriculum areas. When students see the connections between individual subject areas or observe a phenomenon that connects back to a lecture in another subject area, the material becomes more relevant. These kinds of connections are examples of planned parts of instruction for a lesson or a unit and are called cross-curricular, or interdisciplinary instruction, instruction. Examples of cross-curricular or interdisciplinary teaching can be found in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning and the more recently coined STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning. Other examples are cross-curricular investigations and assignments that include the humanities (such as English/Language Arts, social studies, and arts). 

At DNA, we are redefining the schooling experience for our young innovators with opportunities for daily exploration in the arts, team and individual sports, technology and engineering, agriculture, and environmental science.

How does DNA Prep Academy measure student learning?

“Competencies represent what a student needs to learn, and why. They are not as simple as the correct answer on a multiple-choice test question, but rather require a deeper level of knowledge.”  (Levine & Patrick, 2019)

In grades 1-6A, our scholars are assessed based on mastery and competence of a skill(s) or set of knowledge as articulated in the CA Common Core Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.  Quarterly progress reports will clearly communicate where students are along the grade level skill mastery continuum.   At the start of enrollment, students are assessed to establish a baseline for their current level of academic performance and also set individual goals to meet. To monitor student growth and progress, scholars are also assessed quarterly so that professors can adjust instruction as needed, which allows them to stay  proactive in providing scholar support. 

5th grade math testing for middle school math placement

What is the school’s process for accelerating my child in math?
Schools will collect a Body of Evidence (State test scores/ISEE, MAP, Work habits, current grade, and teacher recommendation) to determine if your child will be accelerated in 6th grade. 6th grade students initially testing at grade level will have the opportunity to be accelerated in 7th grade if appropriate.

 

What might a parent expect in regards to the math placement process?

5th grade teachers will collect an initial body of evidence in early spring. Elementary and middle school math teachers will consider the body of evidence to make final placement decisions. Parents will receive notification of placement in May. The middle school will contact parents if any additional testing is required.

CURRICULUM

Language Arts

Primary Grades 1 and 2

In the primary grades, using a variety of high interest literature and informational texts, our primary innovators are focused on text-based comprehension, phonemic awareness/phonics, increasing fluency and high frequency words, speaking and listening, and targeted academic vocabulary.  Grades 1-2 innovators are exposed to content-rich informational texts; opportunities to develop opinions using evidence from books; and they are practicing with new vocabulary and are engaging in group and individual reading activities.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Develop reading comprehension and decoding skills
  • Develop a love of reading to include a variety of genres and authors
  • Write uppercase and lowercase letters correctly
  • Develop phonetic spelling skills 
  • Write complete sentences, short personal narratives, and creative stories
  • Make predictions, inferences, and retell what has been read
  • Spell grade-level words conventionally
  • Use beginning and ending punctuation and capitalization
  • Write clear and complete sentences
  • Sequence writing with a beginning, a middle, and an end
Grades 3-5

During this grade band, we are developing our innovators to become more sophisticated writers and speakers. These skills include engaging in research projects that question what they read and hear, taking information and putting it into their own words, and creating written pieces that follow a structure geared toward a writing purpose (e.g., a narrative story, an informational report, or an opinion text). Through lessons and activities that use books, videos, and technology, these innovators explore new topics and participate in interactive, collaborative activities with professors and fellow innovators.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS:

  • Create clear, coherent, and focused paragraphs
  • Identify and use nouns, verbs, and pronouns appropriately
  • Self-edit and proofread for capitalization, organization, punctuation, and spelling
  • Identify and describe plot, setting, and characters
  • Summarize a piece of writing
  • Increase competency in self-editing and proofreading for capitalization, organization, punctuation, and spelling
  • Use correct subject/verb agreement and consistency of tense
  • Create a final draft reflecting pre-writing, revising, and editing strategies
  • Identify and distinguish the characteristics of literary genres and devices (e.g., metaphor, personification, simile, flashback)
  • Draw inferences, conclusions, or generalizations and support them with textual evidence characteristics of literary genres and devices (e.g., metaphor, personification, simile, flashback)
Transition 6th Grade (6A)

Our core language arts program for grade 6A engages our transitioning middle school scholar with a rigorous curriculum that focuses on making connections beyond the classroom. Skills focused on are:

  • Critical Thinking and Analysis
  • Comprehending Informational Test
  • Research, Writing, and Technology                

                                                                       6A Course work

English

English

Math

Mathematics 6 or Honors Pre-algebra

Social Studies

World History/Geography: Ancient Civilizations

Science

Integrated Science I

World Language

Spanish, Chinese, French

Health and Physical Education

 

Health and Physical Education

Fine Arts

Theater, Music, Art

Exploratory Minor

STEM , Agriculture

 

Mathematics

DNA elementary mathematics program gives our innovators a deep understanding of math concepts, emphasizing skills and strategies to solve problems in multiple that creates powerful, life-long habits of mind – such as perseverance, creative thinking, and the ability to express and defend their reasoning.  Our curriculum makes math meaningful by connecting lessons and projects to everyday life and by building “math esteem,” which is crucial for every student.

First Grade

First graders begin the year learning ways to count to 10, and, within a short amount of time, move into learning about and working with subtraction. Single-digit multiplication is introduced later in the year and an introduction to division is briefly touched upon shortly thereafter. Students are not expected to memorize multiplication facts, as our teachers stress conceptual understanding over math-fact drill at this level. Practical applications are used in lesson presentation and word problems. In addition to the arithmetic operations, this first level teaches ordinal numbers, shapes, measurement, time telling, money, and graphs.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction
  • Understand and apply properties of operations and the relationship between addition and subtraction
  • Add and subtract within 20
  • Use place value understanding and properties of operations to add and subtract
  • Reason with shapes and their attributes

Second Grade

Students learn addition and subtraction with renaming (carrying and borrowing), multiplication and division, place value, measurement, money, introduction to fractions, writing numbers in words, time telling, graphs, and early introduction to geometric shapes and area.  Students also begin to use various Web-based games and software programs to enhance agility with math facts.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction
  • Work with equal groups of objects to gain foundations for multiplication
  • Use place value understanding and properties of operations to add and subtract
  • Measure lengths indirectly and by iterating length units
  • Work with time and money Science

Third Grade

Students focus on more advanced math work on the four arithmetic operations including long division, fractions (equivalent fractions plus adding), measurement, graphs, time, and geometry. Two-step word problems and mental calculation are also taught. Embedded in each core unit is the opportunity for students to further develop number sense and computation skills acquired in the primary grades. Connecting student interest with imaginative projects keeps math fun and engaging.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Develop an understanding of multiplication and division strategies for multiplication and division within 100
  • Develop an understanding of fractions, beginning with unit fractions
  • Develop an understanding of the structure of arrays and of area
  • Describe and analyze two-dimensional shapes

Fourth Grade

The five main units at this grade level progress through place value, numbers and operations, patterns, functions and change, geometry, and data analysis and probability. Fourth graders continue to develop multiple strategies to solve problems and spend a great deal of time explaining their thinking with one another. Students learn all four functions with both fractions and decimals. Geometry coverage is also very advanced as students compute the degrees of angles and solve complex area and perimeter questions. Students work with advanced whole number concepts (e.g., factors, multiples, rounding off), money, other geometric concepts, graphs, and averages. Two-digit multipliers are introduced at this level. Students complete computation problems and the number of word problems gradually increases at this level.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Build fluency with multi-digit multiplication
  • Use division to find quotients involving multi-digit dividends
  • Develop an understanding of fraction equivalence
  • Add and subtract fractions with like denominators and multiply fractions by whole numbers
  • Analyze and classify geometric figures based on their properties

Fifth Grade

At this grade level, the areas of study include numbers, operations and algebraic thinking, fractions, percentages, measurement and data, and geometry. Students engage in advanced work with decimals, as well as, multiplication and division with two-digit multipliers and divisors. They learn to work with percentages and continue with advanced work on fractions, geometry, and graphs. Time and rate word problems, as well as other types of word problems, are given a great deal of attention. During the spring quarter, students are assessed to determine middle school math placement for the upcoming year.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Write and interpret numerical expressions
  • Understand the place value system
  • Perform operations with percentages
  • Use equivalent fractions as a strategy to add and subtract fractions
Social Studies (Gr 1-6)

DNA’s social studies curriculum encourages active inquiry while introducing civics, economics, geography, and history concepts. Students develop critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills as they build capacity for an engaged civic life.

Grade 1- STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Understand concepts of wants and needs
  • Appreciate multicultural society/styles of family structures
  • Understand concept of responsibilities of individual to group
  • Create two- and three-dimensional maps of home, school, and neighborhood

Grade 2- STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Understand need for community norms
  • Appreciate differences and similarities
  • Understand influence of climate and location
  • Understand and use time-sequence terms, change over time
  • Understand concept of goods to market

Grade 3- STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Correctly apply terms related to time and chronology
  • Read and create maps using a key, compass rose, and elevation symbols
  • Describe the cultural interaction among people in Los Angeles
  • Demonstrate an understanding of a historical figure’s point of view

Grade 4- STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Identify similarities and differences between the past and present
  • Understand how the natural resources of a geographical location influence culture
  • Read and create maps using a key, scale, compass rose, and grid lines
  • Demonstrate an understanding of another culture or historical figure’s point of view
  • Describe the social, political, cultural, and economic life and interaction among people in California
  • Demonstrate understanding of California’s diverse geographical regions

Grade 5- STANDARDS AND SKILLS

  • Identify and interpret multiple causes and effects of historical events
  • Place key historic events and people in chronological sequence in a geographic context
  • Differentiate between primary and secondary resources
  • Pose relevant questions and draw conclusions about information encountered in documents, photographs, maps, and artifacts

Grade 6A- STANDARDS AND SKILLS

The content of social studies is organized regionally and will frequently overlap with English and language arts components at this grade level. Students practice history as an interpretive discipline. They read written primary sources and secondary sources, investigate visual primary sources, and learn how to analyze multiple points of view, cite evidence from sources, and make claims in writing and speaking based on that evidence. Key patterns that connect regional studies to world history are:

Science (Grades 1-6A)

DNA Prep Academy’s campus is an environmental oasis with a natural landscape that creates a perfect working lab for scientific inquiry. The campus includes a farm with livestock, a greenhouse, unique topography, trails, mature trees, and a healing sulfur spring flowing in the heart of the property. Our inquiry-based program encourages our innovators to satisfy their curiosities through experiences. Presented with open-ended questions, students gather evidence, conduct experiments in the lab and in the field, propose solutions, and collaborate with one another to defend their thinking. Experiential lessons deepen content knowledge in relevant ways.  Students gain awareness of the natural world while enhancing skills needed in a world of rapidly expanding scientific knowledge. Students connect concepts, develop critical-thinking skills, and gain confidence in communicating their ideas clearly. First grade students are introduced to the scientific method by considering the five senses, the concept of gravity, and plant and animal life cycles. Second graders use questioning, observing, measuring, and concluding skills while exploring the properties of matter. In 3rd grade, students study the more complex systems of food, nutrition, and digestion. Our 4th graders apply scientific methods in studying the solar system, astronomy, plate tectonics, and earthquakes. Fifth graders consider the building blocks of the universe through the study of atoms, machines, robots, and Newtonian physics and our sixth graders explore an integration of physics, chemistry, earth science, and biology. Cross-curricular connections are embedded throughout with frequent references to specific literacy, math, and engineering skills being reinforced through the science investigations. Our 6th graders explore an integration of physics, chemistry, earth science, and biology

  • 1st grade students are introduced to the scientific method by considering the five senses, the concept of gravity, and plant and animal life cycles.
  • 2nd graders use questioning, observing, measuring, and concluding skills while exploring the properties of matter.
  • In 3rd grade, students study the more complex systems of food, nutrition, and digestion.
  • Our 4th graders apply scientific methods in studying the solar system, astronomy, plate tectonics, and earthquakes.
  • 5th graders consider the building blocks of the universe through the study of atoms, machines, robots, and Newtonian physics.
Visual and Performing Arts

DNA’s elementary visual arts program promotes confidence and builds character through unique materials, techniques, skills, and creative process that instills a genuine enjoyment of the arts. Every student has opportunities to draw, paint, sculpt, and experiment with printmaking, ceramics, and technology. Art projects may be linked to learning in other disciplines and inspired by both virtual and in person visits with artists and field trips.  Students are immersed in two-week rotations to create several projects focused on a specific theme. All 3rd, 4th, and 5thgrade students also participate in a five-week intensive unit culminating in an exhibition of their work. Through drama, instrumental music, dance, and movement studies, students learn different forms of expression and cultivate the unique beauty of their own imaginations. Our program recognizes each creative voice and nurtures and expands each child’s ability to work productively in a group of peers. Theatrical Showcases are performed twice per year. Music and performances reflect a range of cultures, celebrating the similarities and differences amongst us. Providing these foundational skills and opportunities of exploration, students gain quality exposure to pursue visual and performing arts as a career or continued focus of study in middle and high school.

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Physical Education and Athletic Development

DNA’s physical education and athletic development program promotes the use of life skills to help students develop physical and social skills and a lifelong love for healthy physical activity. The program’s four essential components are reinforced through play and practice: (1) Sportsmanship—Each student learns positive social behavior through movement and interaction with others. (2) Physical fitness—Students learn to develop and maintain the best possible level of performance, understanding, and appreciation for physical fitness. (3) Skill acquisition—Each student learns specific skills, such as throwing, catching, striking, and kicking. (4) Self-image—Students develop a positive self-image that includes awareness and understanding of one’s body, the use of the body as a means of expression, and the body as an instrument for self-realization.

1st, and 2nd Grades Physical education classes begin with warm-up activities. Jogging, jumping rope, parachute games, tumbling, and dance activities build aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Games designed to develop physical skills that include agility, balance, object manipulation, spatial awareness, directionality, and creative movement are enjoyed in large and small groups. Foundational sports skills of jumping; catching and throwing; kicking, trapping and dribbling; and volleying and striking are learned in a fun, noncompetitive atmosphere. All partner and group play is supervised to help children develop positive personal skills, self-esteem, and ease in cooperative social situations

3rd, 4th, and 5th(6A participates in the middle school development programs)  grade students begin the athletic development program. These students develop fundamental skills through games and sports – while refining their development by learning the specialized skills, rules, and strategies needed to play soccer, volleyball, flag football, basketball, softball, and other sports. Sportsmanship and collaborative team play are emphasized. Cooperative games help students build relationships, enhance communication skills, and provide opportunities to work together and solve challenges. All athletic development activities focus on the foundational components of on-field performance: aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, speed, agility, and body composition. Students learn to set and maintain physical fitness goals and develop a positive attitude about leading an active and healthy lifestyle.

Health

DNA’s health curriculum lays the foundation for each child’s goal of physical well-being. Our health curriculum helps students become good decision-makers with healthy goals when faced with lifestyle choices. The health program consists of the following components:

  • Physical health—The health of the developing body
  • Mental and emotional health—The health of the mind, including feelings and thoughts
  • Social health—Relationships with other people, including family and friends

Through discussions and activities, students develop Life Skills and the tools needed to lead healthy lives. These skills include decision-making, goal setting, how to obtain help, stress management, refusal skills, and conflict resolution. By developing these skills, students enhance their self-esteem and their ability to be effective communicators, critical thinkers, respectful citizens, and responsible and health-conscious individuals. Topics include the following:

  • Life Skills
  • Conflict resolution
  • Nutrition
  • Substance abuse prevention (presented in an age-appropriate manner)
  • Safety
  • Fitness
  • Mindfulness
Character Education and Life Skills

Character education and life skills are cultivated in Lower School throughout daily activities and in a formal program. Innovator-led assemblies, focused lessons, modeling, and conflict management education help our innovators learn about respect, inclusivity, compassion, and more from each other. Play and meaningful socialization facilitates innovators who thrive in our community emotionally as well as intellectually. They feel respected, understood, and connected, so their confidence soars.

Technology

DNA Prep Academy, in its efforts to prepare our innovators for a lifetime of learning, strives to balance the time a student spends in the digital and non-digital realms, prioritizing the unmatched value of in-person, face-to-face interactions with peers, teachers, and parents. Its use of technology complements these efforts by helping students to become thoughtful, knowledgeable, empathetic, and critical users of technology to achieve their larger educational goals.  Technology is not seen as a separate subject area but rather as a tool that supports and enriches the curriculum.  Our innovators utilize our tech lab where they are introduced to robotics, coding, programming,  and tinkering.

We offer synchronous and asynchronous learning using a hybrid technology to facilitate student engagement and access. For our students who have to miss school due to extra-curricular activities, auditions, or illness, this flexibility will facilitate a live connection to the classroom while simultaneously allowing for travel and experiences that otherwise would not be possible within the confinement of a traditional school model. 

Library and Information Technology – All students will develop the necessary knowledge, tools, and integration of skills for success to function in a print and digital society. 

Community Involvement

DNA Prep Academy elementary community involvement program engages our innovators in class and school wide projects and partnerships that aim to be mutually beneficial, that are related to classroom learning, and that respond to a real need. Our community involvement projects are designed to create relationships with people, organizations, and the environment over the school year.