Personalized Learning Propel Students to Success
During the COVID-19 pandemic the government has had to take the extreme steps of halting in-person schooling, forcing the closure of indoor arts and athletics programs, and barring most other youth athletic activities. These drastic measures have been made in an attempt to protect the most vulnerable in our communities from this deadly virus, but these public health decisions have taken a lasting toll on our children’s mental and emotional growth. Our children are now facing severe learning losses and have had their academic, artistic, and athletic development stunted and, in many cases, permanently damaged.
The drastic change from the traditional schooling model to the current remote learning model has meant that many of our children have struggled to maintain the necessary learning pace at home due to inadequate resources, inability of teachers to enforce proper accountability, an erosion of basic academic skills without a means to intervene, and an overall demotivation and curbing of educational aspirations due to stress and uncertainty in the learning environment.
But all is not loss as leading researchers in the field of education have demonstrated that these learning losses are not inevitable if schools put the necessary resources into individualizing and personalizing instruction in future school years.
Student-Artist and Athlete Academic Support Program
Utilizing the flexibility that we have as a private school and to meet our mission of developing our student-artists and athletes for future long-term success, we are implementing a middle school academic program that is designed to meet each individual student’s learning needs and that is committed to addressing any learning deficiencies and losses that have formed during the COVID-19 era.
The structure of our upper school program is modeled after the highly successful Student-Athlete Academic Support Departments (“SAAS”) that are implemented at all of the top universities. These integral departments have proven records of success in meeting each student-athletes individual learning needs by building a comprehensive multi-level support system of monitoring, tutoring and teaching resources, and real time intervention to address student deficiencies before they become uncorrectable.
To facilitate a completely personalized curriculum, all of our upper school students have a core curriculum that is built on our accredited and NCAA-approved iDNA education platform. This personalized platform blends virtual classrooms, with a paced and monitored learning schedule, two times a week in person lectures with our professors in each of the core classes, and continual academic support through our SAAS department (see below). In these lectures our professors teach key concepts, foundational material, and lessons involving hands-on real world application to reinforce the weeks lessons.
In addition to the scheduled lectures in the 4 core classes, students will be on campus daily for their specialized trainings and to continue with the iDNA curriculum. Our students are provided with both indoor and outdoor study areas. The outdoor areas are spread throughout our campus and will enhance the learning experience by providing peace, solitude, a sense of independence, and inspiration from the campus’s beautiful natural surroundings.
Personalization of the Curriculum through our SAAS Department
Beyond the monitoring of our teachers, each student is provided with an extensive support system through our SAAS department, which is the key to our ability to meet each individual students learning needs and academic success. Each student’s support system includes:
Each student is assigned an SAAS Academic Advisor who is directly responsible for monitoring the academic progress of each student-athlete/artist in each core subject. This Advisor is the student’s main advocate and facilitates the communication between the student, professors, tutors, coaches, faculty members, and parents. Each advisor monitors online progress and reports that identify improvement and deficiencies and then takes a proactive approach of intervention when needed. These advisors highlight potential academic challenges and celebrate academic successes.
Subject Specific One-on-One and Group Tutors
Tutoring is offered either on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting depending on the student’s need. Subject specific Tutors are assigned by Academic Advisors to specific students or groups of students based on real time feedback and data that the online curriculum will be providing.
Supervision and Academic Coaching during Mandatory Study Hall
The Academic Development staff will be charged with supervision of two times a week mandatory study hall sessions.
- Weekly Academic Check-in:
- Additionally, during one of the two mandatory study hall sessions, each student will meet with his or her assigned weekly Academic Coach for 15-30 minutes to go over any questions related to any subject matter. If the coach determines that additional is support is needed, the coach will schedule through the Advisor specific one-on-one or group tutoring.
- At the beginning of the semester, each student will set semester and weekly goals with their assigned Academic Coach and create a plan to achieve those goals. The Coach will assist in the comprehension of course material, and with the utilization of various learning and study techniques based on the student’s assessed learning style.
High School Mentors
At the beginning of the semester each student will be assigned a High School Mentor. This mentor will be an additional level of support academically and emotionally – providing a level of comfort and type of help that only another student could provide.
Two-times per week each student will have mandatory study hall from 3:00-3:55 PM. During this time a student will do homework or classwork; meet with their normal weekly Academic Coach; schedule appointments with teachers and/or academic advisors; or have a subject specific one-on-one tutoring session that is scheduled through their academic advisor.
Fridays remain a day of self-improvement, service and fulfilling each student’s school major.
- Students will be able to utilize this time to catch up on lessons that they may have fallen behind on.
- Schedule a make-up study hall session
- Meet with professors during scheduled office hours.
We work directly with families whose schedules need additional flexibility during the SAAS department scheduled activities– as we recognize that fostering talents may create a substantial conflict with our mandatory afternoon study hall and academic support schedules. We accommodate our students who need extra flexibility in their schedules with at home options for study hall sessions, schedule Friday makeup sessions, or the ability of parents to opt out of learning tools after consulting with their Academic Advisor. Personalizing the learning experience and working directly with our families to meet their students’ needs is one of the many reasons our students are able to maximize their academic and talent development success.
Developing Students of Life
At DNA Prep we are truly committed to developing students ready to conquer life. With this commitment in mind, we will still provide for the very best daily trainings in the arts and athletics, but our upper school students will now choose majors in technology, entrepreneurship, horticulture/agricultural, or general life studies with minors in their artistic medium or sport-specific focus. With this change our school schedule will now be designed with Fridays as a day to work on Majors, a day of inspiration and internal discovery, and a day to catch-up on studies and meet with professors to have any remaining questions from the week answered.This revolutionary holistic curriculum design will flow through to our elementary-aged students, where Fridays become their innovation day – designed with programs that inspire, pique curiosity, and allow for self-discovery.
Students will choose one Major for the year in the following subjects:
Our Foundational Web Design Course provides strong understanding of the principles of graphic design for the web/screen environment. Our app design course is an intuitive, visual programming course, which allows our Scholars to build fully functional apps for smartphones and tablets.
Scholars are introduced to robotic systems facilitating the initial steps needed for a career in this exciting field. This course will also provide hands-on experience in building and coding their fully functional robot to walk, talk, play games, complete tasks or even compete other classmates’ robots!
In this course Scholars explore the basics in graphic design; work on projects that study the main skills needed in design like brainstorming, project development, and time management. Scholars complete major projects that emphasize different skills in graphic design and have practical and professional applications.
This course helps Scholars gain the foundational understanding of how to handle their money and to start to build lifelong spending and savings habits that they can carry into the future. Our goal is to utilize these influential elementary and middle school years to provide the tools to make life-long healthy financial decisions.
This course helps scholars develop and refine their networking skills that will be invaluable as adults when searching for employment and to excel in their future chosen profession. Students are taught public speaking, proper use of social media to build a strong network, how to present them in a manner that maximizes benefits of social interaction, and will practice these learned skills in the field with off-campus field trips to local community and civic meetings.
This course introduces our Scholars to what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Topics include case studies in business success and failures, how to build a business plan, how to build a marketing plan, lessons in pitching a business and presenting an initial idea, life cycle of a successful business, and corporate responsibility.
Young Entrepreneurship Program
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a groundbreaking and exciting program that transforms local middle and high school students into real, confident entrepreneurs. Through the yearlong program, DNA Scholars have the opportunity to generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors, and launch their very own companies. This course is taken in conjunction with the Business Development course
The purpose of DNA Prep Academy’s Agriculture/ Horticulture program is to teach our scholars the science behind and the practical skills of gardening and farming. Scholars learn the importance of soil cultivation for the purpose of growing crops used in animal husbandry, human consumption, and other products that are not eaten. In addition, our Scholars learn skills from professional Horticulturists and gain a profound understanding of the social benefits of sustainable agriculture and the importance of being good stewards of the land. Our scholars will have the opportunity to explore this important world with specific courses in:
- Environmental Science,
- Apiary (Bee Farming),
- Plant Value/Health,
- Second Semester Young Entrepreneurship Program.
Throughout their time in upper school all of our Scholars will give back to our communities and learn the value of service to others through our volunteer program. But for our scholars participating in our Service Learning and Volunteering major, they will expand upon these lessons through a yearlong service project, programs that teach ways to affect positive change in their communities, and become empathetic citizens who strive to impact the lives of others. Some of the additional courses included are:
In this signature cross-age peer program, DNA 7th and 8th grades students serve as mentors to our grades 3-6th grade students. This course provides growth and learning opportunities for both mentors and mentees focusing on building self-esteem, empathy and moral reasoning, intrapersonal communication and conflict resolution skills. Our 7th and 8th grades scholars receive training and are also provided an adult mentor for themselves to serve as a model of mentorship.
This course focuses on teaching Scholars to become self-sufficient, engaged global citizens, and to develop their leadership skills taking part in on-campus clubs, student government, local community and civic causes as it relates to youth development, social and restorative justice. This is an open-ended course based on project-based learning, which is designed to help DNA Scholars to explore issues that matter to them.