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Princeton NJ Schools Announcements

PDS Announces Innovative Middle School Program: The Da Vinci Program

Princeton – This year, Princeton Day School launched an innovative new program in the Middle School: The Da Vinci Program. With the implementation of the new academic schedule this year at Princeton Day School, there was an opportunity to devote a block of time to a course of study where Middle School students could pursue a non-traditional class of their choosing, such as robotics, sustainability, coding, and service learning to stimulate their curiosity.

When announcing the new program, Head of Middle School Renee Price explained, “The Da Vinci program aims to engage students as the captains of their own learning. Each student takes courses that they choose in which they take risks, explore individual passions, develop new interests, and use multiple disciplines to solve problems and create original solutions.”

Middle School Humanities teacher Cindy Peifer took on the newly created role of Da Vinci Program Coordinator, and began building the Da Vinci course options this fall by first surveying the faculty and then the students. Ms. Peifer emphasized how engaged the students have been in the entire process, even creating their own classes in some cases.

From the great range of original possibilities she received, she narrowed the offerings down to 15 Da Vinci courses for the first session, which is currently taking place in the Middle School and will end on November 7.

Among the current Da Vinci offerings is the Instant Challenge with science teacher Alli Treese, where students have the opportunity to solve one or sometimes two problems within the course of the class. This can range from building a car out of simple materials and make it move along a ramp without touching it, to participating in an “egg drop” experiment, ensuring the egg doesn’t break when dropped from the upper balcony. Similar to the challenges encountered in Destination Imagination, this course has been a big hit with the students.

Math teacher Brian Laskowski has run a popular Da Vinci course on Lego Robotics. On a recent day, the students were studying a lego processor that was programmed to solve a Rubik’s cube. Mr. Laskowski will most likely lead a Vex IQ course in the next session, a further iteration of robotics and processing that ties into the new STEAM curriculum launched in the Upper School at Princeton Day School this year. Another big hit with students has been a course on Model Car Building, led by science teacher Jack Madani.

Some other Da Vinci courses in this first session include creating 3D printing projects with Humanities teacher Tara Quigley and Technology Coordinator Jamie Atkeson; taking part in a Mock Trial team with Librarian Sheila Goeke; “Choose Your Own” art projects with art teacher Karen Stolper; learning American Sign Language with Humanities teacher Amy Beckford; Making Art Out of Nature with science teacher Corey Dempsey; and yoga with reading and writing specialist Kimberly Ballinger, to name just a few.

On a recent tour through the Middle School during the Da Vinci block, it was evident that the students have thoroughly enjoyed this new addition to the schedule. The quiet concentration and smiles were abundant.

As Ms. Peifer shared the experiences of this first session of Da Vinci, she noted, “The best surprises have come from the kids thinking up these great ideas, and the faculty making these courses come to life.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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