Da Vinci Courses Embrace "Virtual Hands-On" Approach

Photo above: Middle School students participating in Da Vinci classes in early March on campus

The Middle School's Da Vinci Program is a unique and innovative PDS learning experience that offers students in Grades 5-8 a block of time each cycle to devote to a non-traditional class of their choosing. Da Vinci courses run on a trimester schedule as shorter-time offerings designed to engage students as the captains of their own learning in a student-driven, hands-on, grade-free environment. The offerings allow diverse groups of students and faculty to take risks, explore individual passions, develop new interests and use multiple disciplines to solve problems and create original solutions.

During Panthers Online learning this spring, the Da Vinci faculty co-directors, MS science teacher Annemarie Strange and MS humanities teacher Tara Quigley, organized a thoughtful selection of courses, each of which feature two custom-designed asynchronous offerings per 7-day class cycle.

The Panthers Online Da Vinci course options include: 

  • Art as Therapy
  • Chopped  
  • Computer Science
  • COVID-19 Chronicles (8th grade only*)
  • Da Vinci Doodles
  • DEAR
  • DIY Tutorials
  • Fiber Arts
  • Gardening 101
  • Get Outside! Art in Your Backyard
  • Mad Science
  • Yearbook (8th grade only*)

A unique aspect of Da Vinci during Panthers Online: the program is optional for students. MS students may sign up for as many or as few Da Vinci courses as they feel they have time to explore. Ms. Strange notes, "Some kids have a lot of time on their hands right now and are feeling bored, while other kids are up to their ears in their home lives. So we have some kids who have signed up for five classes and others who haven't signed up at all, and whichever way they go, we are here to support them."

Two additional changes for the virtual Da Vinci Program: students don't have to worry about class size constraints; they also have the ability to switch between classes. Ms. Strange sees this added flexibility as helping support a healthy sense of community among the students. As Ms. Strange explains, "If someone sees all of their friends are in 'At Home Workouts' and they want to work out with their friends from home, then of course we will add them in. The biggest thing that Da Vinci is good at is bringing kids together. One primary goal for us is to maintain a social community while working remotely."

Thus far, the virtual Da Vinci program is off to a great start and both students and teachers are enjoying taking part in the courses. "Chopped" is proving to be a favorite, with over 60 students currently signed up! Please enjoy a collage of tasty-looking submissions from "Chopped" below!

Images provided by Annemarie Strange.

Interested in learning more about Da Vinci programming? Here's a related story about a special visitor who spoke with three classes of Da Vinci students this past fall.





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