Signature MS Da Vinci Program Continues to Innovate

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

This year, more than ever, the Middle School's Da Vinci program plays an increasingly pivotal role as a program area of choice for middle schoolers to reflect on, understand and directly explore personal interests and /or subject areas that are new to them.

The Da Vinci Program is an innovative PDS learning experience offering students in Grades 5-8 a block of time each cycle to focus on a non-traditional course they have elected from the roster of choices. Da Vinci courses are 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. 

After successfully adapting to a virtual model during all-remote learning last spring, Da Vinci Program Coordinator (and MS Science teacher) Annemarie Strange and colleagues again reimagined the program for the School's 2020-2021 hybrid learning environment: "We've had to get creative about ways that kids can still be the captains of their own projects but at the same time be socially distant, while also factoring in that some students are on campus and others are remote," Ms. Strange explained.

Photo above: Student creations during last spring's Da Vinci "Chopped" course

"The result is a number of courses that have built in both synchronous and asynchronous lessons that allow all students to fully engage in each course they choose," she continued.

The Da Vinci team also solicited feedback from students on what they wanted as part of the process of crafting this year's program. "This year, with so much going on in the world, many kids have expressed the desire for a relaxing atmosphere. We have a number of courses geared towards relaxation and self-care, including Art as Therapy and Yoga and Meditation," Ms. Strange noted.

Photo above: Students work together on a Da Vinci project on campus last year.

This fall's first-quarter Da Vinci course options include: 

  • Art as Therapy
  • Colorful Book Club
  • Creative Journaling
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Da Vinci Doodles
  • Da Vinci in a Box
  • DEAR
  • Field Trips - Physical and Virtual
  • Genius Hour
  • Music Listening and Composition
  • Panther Media and Entertainment Committee 
  • Podcasting
  • SPOKES (MS student news publication)
  • Stock Market Game
  • Yoga and Meditation

The Da Vinci program intends to continue to morph as student interests and needs emerge throughout this unique school year, while always keeping the School's health and safety priorities at the forefront of program planning.

As Ms. Strange explained, "We will continue to seek feedback from the students about what they want to do as we move forward. It's great that the students feel engaged and readily share their thoughts and ideas with us. Da Vinci will continue to adapt so that Middle School students have a safe educational space to explore passions, spend time with friends and engage in meaningful experiential learning."

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 last fall and another story about how the program embraced a "virtual hands-on" approach during Panthers Online this past spring.

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