A Day In The Life of a DPA Student: Meet Nina

Nina lives in the Naylor Gardens neighborhoods in Ward 7. Her mother who works the night shift drops her off at carpool at 7:45AM. After breakfast, she goes to Advisory. Nina’s is prepared to share her idea about a national current event with her teammates. Nina talks to her mentor about the project she’s designing for her upcoming expedition, which focuses on solving a major problem in her community about the lack of playgrounds and play space for young students.

During the 90 minute DPA Reads block, Nina and her teacher complete a snapshot reading assessment to track her progress toward reading on grade. Nina has made great progress and is reading age appropriate, but rigorous, texts in her ELA time. Her teachers encourage her to pick books that she likes, from a curated library of awesome reading materials. Her teachers will use regular interim assessments to assess her progress against standards. The next block is DPA Solves. Nina loves math is all about problem solving. You won’t find many worksheets on Nina’s desk, as most of our math blocks will be spent having deep discussions about math itself. A typical lesson includes: 50 minutes of math lesson, 15 minutes of cumulative review, 15 minutes of logic stories, and 10 minute of mental math. Nina used to be uncomfortable with math, but now that she’s at DPA, she realizes that talking about math all of the time is really helpful in demystifying the subject matter. Nina will learn that math is everywhere and she and her teacher pinpointed her need to improve her arithmetic skills.

After the morning ELA and math blocks, students will have lunch. Immediately after lunch is one half hour of choice time, which can also be used as “lab time.” Students can engage in physical activities, work on an individual project, or meet with small groups of students to work on a group activity. Lab time is also a good time for Nina’s teachers to regroup and do some group planning across grade level teams.

Nina is completing the Game Design Unit. The skills covered in this unit start by focusing on mathematics. Students will begin with exploring the concept of coordinate planes. Students will dig deeper into the x and y coordinates. Students will then dive into user input and conditional statements. Students will contextualize this content by controlling the movement of spirits with arrow yes and the mouse. From there, students will start setting and manipulating variables to control different elements of their programs. Students will build out two projects during the unit- and the first is a simple maze game. Next, Nina is working to identify how she can use game design as a possible solution to create more play space for young students. She is thinking through how to create gaming competitions in her neighborhood on the weekends. 

Nina’s afternoon at DPA is personalized and she gets to do Project Time! During Project Time, Nina receives specific skill instruction in problem solving, persevering, collaborating, creating, communicating, and/or connecting across the content areas.

Today, Nina’s science teacher covers skills related to deep problem solving. Given Nina’s problem of creating more play space, Nina’s teacher encourages Nina to identify multiple reasons why her neighborhood does not have play spaces and the possible reasons why. This forces Nina to think critically about the social, physical, financial, historical and political reasons for this problem.

When Nina participates in Computer Science personalized learning time during the afternoon block, she is grouped with other students, according to her current skill level. Today, Nina and Nesiah are working on designing a new video game “Funland in Southeast, DC” – a game where the goal is to build “fun spots” by solving math facts, which allows access to a tool kit of things you can select-  games, rides, equipment, toys etc. for the fun spots. The video game design allows them to apply coding skills, math facts, and storytelling competencies.

Next is Mentor Time, and Nina has 1:1 session with her mentor teacher who really knows her. Nina’s mentor is working on organization and time management skills. They use this time to review Nina’s progress for the week, priorities for the next week, and any obstacles Nina may have experienced. 

Today, Nina is looking forward to Spanish class. During Spanish, students are immersed in a multi­sensory environment, first reviewing the alphabet, numbers, and basic salutations. Through conversations, activities, and home­work assignments, students continue to build a working knowledge of the Spanish language. Today, Nina is working on expressing her likes and dislikes about the DPA lunch menu. She also talks to her mentor about the Community meeting restorative circle.

For her Afternoon Advisory/Seminar, Nina is preparing for the Socratic seminar discussion of the day: “questions that challenge common wisdom.” She is proposing the argument, “Advances in technology do more harm than good.” 

After this full day, Nina packs up her homework, completes her closing reflection where she gives a shout out to her classmate who showed great focus and excellence that day, and then joins the line to head to after school sports or clubs. Nina participates in “Girls on the Run,” an after school running and Computer Science program. She loves running and is motivated by the extra time to practice her programming skills.  

The average day, described above, will happen for six consecutive weeks. After that six-week block, students will have a weeklong “expedition.” Expeditions will vary, depending on student progress and mastery. For students who are progressing according to their established learning plans, expeditions might be a special project in the real world, or a short-cycle internship. Students might build a robot, or design a smartphone application. For students who are struggling, the one week expeditionary period is an opportunity to engage in remediation. The leadership team of DPA will meet before every expedition week to assign students and teachers to remedial groups, as necessary. Nina’s school day ends at 4:00 PM, and then she goes sports and clubs from 4:00PM – 6:00PM.