Meet Gabe DellaVecchia

Middle School Curriculum Designer Gabe, an expert in interdisciplinary learning with a PhD from the University of Michigan, explains how he designs themes that blend together STEM and literacy.

Emily Veno
• 
September 7, 2023

Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that prepares kids for the ever-changing world of the future. Our team of educators have a diverse background of experience on the cutting edge of teaching and learning, whether they’ve worked in brick and mortar schools or dynamic online environments. In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the amazing educators behind Prisma.

Gabe DellaVecchia joined Prisma in summer 2022 as a Curriculum Designer for our Middle School program. 

Where are you based? 

Seattle, WA, USA.

Tell us a little bit about your background in education prior to joining Prisma. 

My career as an educator has been varied, including multiple stints as a reading tutor, providing teacher professional development while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, and teaching English in both Japan and Cambodia. Before deciding to pursue a PhD in education, I was a third-grade classroom teacher in an International Baccalaureate school in Denver, CO.

How has your work in your PhD program inspired your approach to design at Prisma? 

Teaching at an IB school, I was both a teacher and a curriculum designer. I started to realize that it didn’t require huge investments in materials to make school more engaging, equitable, and educative: asking better questions doesn’t cost any more than asking rote ones! I spent the five years of my PhD program designing and studying interdisciplinary project-based learning experiences that meaningfully integrated literacy learning with science and engineering: the same approach that we use at Prisma!

What do you think makes interdisciplinary, project-based learning so effective for so many types of learners? And given its effectiveness, why do you think more schools don’t implement this approach to learning? 

Excellent questions. I’ll start with the second part first: schools are gigantic enterprises and are very slow to change. Prisma is nimble: we have a small team who can react to feedback quickly. We are also free from the types of administrative and bureaucratic obstacles that often get in the way of simply doing what is best for kids. That brings us back to the first question: what is best for kids is making sure to ground their learning in the real world, thinking about consequential problems, seeing why what they learn matters, and making sure that the different parts of their day all fit together in a coherent way. Interdisciplinary, project-based learning allows us to achieve all of those aims!

What's Prisma?

  • Prisma is an accredited, project-based, online program for kids in grades 4-12.
  • We exist to ignite a lifelong love of learning and prepare kids to thrive in the future.
  • Our middle school, high school, and parent-coach programs provide personalized curriculum, 1:1 support from educators, and cohorts where kids build community.

What have been some of your favorite themes, workshops, and projects you’ve designed, and why? 

Unsolved Mysteries was my favorite theme overall: I love mysteries! I was able to share all sorts of fun stuff about aliens, and it was personally meaningful, as it was the first theme I designed for Prisma! I am extremely proud of the set of collaborative problem solving workshops I designed last year for our World of Wonder theme. Learners participated in a simulation where they were leaders of the city of “Ventis,” and needed to build more sustainable energy solutions after a catastrophic storm cut off power to the city. It’s always complicated to design a simulation, but I think it introduced critical issues in a fun way!

What are you working on currently? Can you give us a super sneak preview of some fun upcoming curriculum?! 

Cycle 1 is starting soon. We have not revealed the theme yet, but there’s a workshop that I designed about a certain colorfully dressed character that I am very excited for the learners to experience. At the moment, I am designing the Project Journal for Cycle 2 and let’s just say that “fun” is an appropriate term for that theme!

What do you like to learn about, or what is something new you learned recently? 

While I am in the midst of researching materials and information for a new theme, I am always learning new things. Did you know that the youngest patent holder in the United States was only six years old? I had no idea!

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