New Academic Program Launched at Walnut High

The Academic Design Programs has students work in groups to complete hands-on projects that combine the core subjects of math, English, and social studies.

The Academic Design Program (ADP) has launched at Walnut High this year with 77 sophomores working through real-world problems in search of real-world solutions.

The new core engages students in an interactive learning environment that develops higher-level thinking, creativity, problem solving, and reasoning skills.

Students work in groups to complete hands-on projects that combine the core subject areas of math, English, and social studies.

ADP meets during Periods 1-3 with teachers Kate Borihane -English-language arts, Justin Panlilio -social studies, Jennifer La Certe –math, and Sue McCracken, grade level coordinator.

The ADP Team has the flexibility to design their program in the technology rich classrooms equipped with iPads, desktops, and NetBooks.

“When you walk into the three connected classrooms there’s a different feeling,” said Principal Jeff Jordan.

“There are no bells. The time is theirs and if they need more time in math that day – they take it. It’s their choice. There’s not a lot of talking at the students – there’s more collaboration,” he added.

The student teams design and build solutions to challenges related to building a community.  ADP is modeled after the award winning Design-Based Learning program.

“Without the direct instruction - it’s noisy - and that’s good because learning is taking place,” Jordan said.

Students grouped in nine Domains are in the process ofbuilding their communities and dealing with the problems that come with urbanization and political systems in a world where they are mostly physically isolated, with growing interactions. World History, English, and Math standards are embedded in the activities.

“Students are finding that they are an active part of the building process – not just in their Domain, but in the program itself,” La Certe said. The connected classes encourage movement and gives flexibility for working in different configurations. One is designated as the technology base, another is the building room base, and the third is general purpose.

One recent group challenge was designing an “innovation” that improves life and efficiencies in their domains - and also makes money.  

The project allowed students to experience some of thechallenges of the Industrial Revolution before ever discussing it. While marketing the products, they used the English skills of persuasion and rhetoric. In math they learned how to account for their finances and explored concepts including percent of change, simple and compound interest, and graphing.

Teams promoted their creative products ranging from a Canoe Car and water-powered Hydro Generator, to a Caterpillar Cleaner during a Trade Show.

“It’s packed full of awesomeness,” said one team holding touting their project while holding up a “Like Us On Facebook” sign’ The Miracle Works team promoted their “Bigger Fruit, Longer Life” invention.

“I like fruit – this one is my favorite,” exclaimed Panlilio. After the presentation, students compared and contrasted their experiences with the Industrial Revolution. The challenge fulfilled Englishstandards with persuasion and rhetoric in the writing and presentations. And in Math, groups learned about the financial aspect with percentages, percent of change, integers, graphing, and simple and compound interest.

The goal of ADP is to meet the needs of all types of learners, while maintaining a rigorous and relevant curriculum by tapping into the innate curiosity of students. ADP meets A-G requirements and students have personal learning plans. The core also aligns well with the new Common CoreStandards as the focus shifts to reasoning and problem-solving skills.

“Common Core fits perfectly with ADP and the transition will be smooth. It’s all about reasoning, understanding, experiential, andapplication – and our kids are applying all these skills,” La Certe said.

The program was created for a reason, Principal Jeff Jordan said.

“We are on a mission to help kids succeed," he said.  

In the first six weeks of school more than 50 percent of the students improved their grades compared to the end of the previous school year.

Next year, the pilot program will double in size by adding another grade level. The long-term plan is to be a three-year program for sophomores through seniors.

“We just at the starting point right now and we are very proud of this program,” Jordan said.

--Walnut Valley Unified School District

alan haskvitz December 27, 2012 at 04:46 PM
A new program and the superintendent has said there is a huge deficit. Where did the money for this program come from? Did the money come from a grant? I mean 77 students and four teachers... technology rich classrooms equipped with iPads, desktops, and NetBooks...Wow. Too bad the superintendent wants to cut six days from the school year this year and nine days each the following two years.
Jan Keating December 28, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I commend WHS and the staff who desire to seek a more applicable, real time approach to their students' learning. It is refreshing to hear of a school that is determined to keep their eye on the ball when it comes to what is best for students. Jan Keating
Donna Mann February 10, 2013 at 08:02 PM
I so agree with you, Jan. It is so past time to put in more real time programs at all of our schools. Donna Mann


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