If we don’t make Prisma the kind of place where kids love to show up every day we will be unable to bring out the best in them. We give kids autonomy and choice, a deeply interesting and relevant curriculum, a supportive social environment, learning coaches that know each child well, a culture that celebrates progress and encourages risks and plenty of time for fun!
The world is changing faster than ever; 65% of current elementary students will work in jobs yet to be invented. It’s no longer enough to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic; we must develop kids holistically for a world that’s global, technology-driven and ever-changing. We’re committed to being best in class at preparing kids for the 21st century. Every aspect of our model is crafted to develop the skills, tools and mindset that kids will need.
This generation of kids faces global challenges more complex than any seen by recent generations. We need our kids to grow up deeply committed to changing in the world. Our program is designed for this. From our focus on real-world issues, ethical dilemmas, leadership and social responsibility to our diverse cohorts, inspiring speakers, service learning and cohort values, Prisma learners are primed to be future change-makers.
Our interdisciplinary, theme-based curriculum consists of three main components:
We also provide a live daily standup where kids develop their social-emotional skills and a regular speaker series tied to our real-world themes.
Ask our learners what they love most about Prisma and there’s a good chance they’ll say “Prisma coaches”! We handpick our coaches for their unique ability to bring out the very best in kids. Unlike traditional school where teachers are expected to wear so many hats—curriculum developer, assessor, lecturer, administrator, disciplinarian and social worker—we free our coaches up to become world-class at three things: forming strong, motivating relationships with their learners, providing rich verbal and written feedback and delivering super engaging live workshops.
Unlike the typical model where kids start over with a new teacher every year, at Prisma kids stay with the same set of four coaches (their ‘cohort’ coaches) for multiple years, and they are assigned a mentor coach that they meet with weekly.
Our learners have formed strong friendships, a robust culture and a deep sense of shared identity (They’ve even coined their own term to describe themselves: 'Prismarians'). While adults might find the idea of virtual friendships to be odd, we’ve found that it’s second nature for our learners. In addition to the multiple opportunities that kids have to engage with one another via our core curriculum (e.g. in daily coach-led standups, workshops and shared projects), kids also get together via our learner-led clubs, our virtual learner community and in their own free time.
We’re strong advocates of kids pursuing arts, music, sports, theatre, community service and other passions, and we build this into our program in a variety of ways. Our Prisma projects provide space for kids to develop their creative talents, be they music, art, or design. Our student-led clubs cover a range of activities, from gaming and photography to entrepreneurship and baking. Our individualized learning routines allow kids to choose electives, from learning a foreign language to writing a book to achieving a fitness goal. In December, we run a service learning cycle dedicated to understanding and contributing to important causes. Finally, Prisma kids are encouraged to pursue two extra-curricular badges each year, a Mastery Badge—where kids pick something they want to ‘master’ (be it playing guitar, fixing broken electronics or perfecting their golf swing) and practice it for at least 100 hours, documenting their progress along the way—and a Community Badge*—where kids engage in an activity in their community along with other local kids (be it a team sport, a theatre production or girl scouts). *Not required currently due to COVID.
Every child and family is different and has unique routines, schedules and priorities. Our daily schedule allows ample opportunities for learners to interact with and socialize with their peers, while maintaining flexibility and the ability to customize their day to best fit their interests, needs and learning style.
Please note: suggested schedules vary by time zone.
During September through June, Prisma learners experience three Sessions (Fall, Winter and Spring), with breaks to recharge in between. Each session is divided into two 5-week cycles centered around a real-world theme. The sixth week of each cycle is dedicated to parent-coach-learner exchanges, outside speakers related to the theme and independent learning routines. In December, we run our service learning cycle where kids learn about and contribute to local, national and global issues.
Parents at Prisma get the best of both worlds: the chance to be more in touch with and (if they choose) involved with their child’s learning without having to take on the day-to-day responsibility of teaching and guiding their child. The majority of our families report spending less than one hour a day supporting their Prisma learner. And, unlike public school where ‘parent involvement’ is often code for fundraising or volunteering, at Prisma it means seeing what your child is working on at regular Expo days, receiving in-depth feedback from your child’s coach via detailed weekly progress emails and our once-per-cycle Parent-Coach-Learner exchanges, getting daily insight into your child's learning by way of our learner dashboard, providing us with feedback that impacts how we design our program, overhearing a great discussion during one of our synchronous workshops, and receiving regular updates and anecdotes and connecting with other families via our parent community.
Our approach to learning via interdisciplinary projects is both research-backed—research findings have shown that high-quality project-based learning (PBL) improves learning outcomes in a wide variety of learning environments across a diverse set of learner needs—and also unique in that Prisma Projects are purposefully not always problem or challenge-based and are often more creative and choice-based, allowing for more learner-driven exploration and development of critical thinking.
We believe that there are very valuable ways for kids to use screens (e.g. for research, for learning about topics of interest and for meeting and collaborating with kids from other places) and less valuable ways for kids to use screens. We disagree with the idea that screen time is inherently bad. At the end of the day our lives and our work will increasingly utilize screens so it’s important that this is a natural part of our kids’ education and that kids learn to use technology as a tool to make themselves smarter, more productive and more worldly rather than becoming passive consumers of technology.
Prisma learners use screens to do engaging synchronous workshops and 'stand ups' with their coach and other learners (a total of 1.5 hours per day), they use screens to access adaptive learning apps that cater exactly to the child's level and speed of learning (usually less than 1 hour per day) and they use screens for some aspects of their projects (e.g. to write responses and read materials). We do believe there is great value to off-screen, hands-on learning, and we thus include as many off-screen options into our projects and independent learning routines as possible.
Academic rigor is highly prioritized at Prisma. Learning just happens differently here, for the better! Instead of checking boxes to meet externally derived educational standards, we encourage learners to follow their curiosity to excavate their interests and passions. This fuels learning that’s fun and engaging while facilitating whole-person development. Learning this way, along with the skillful support of our Learning coaches, enables the achievement of academic mastery while allowing the love of learning to flourish. Much of the recent wave of innovation in education focused on test scores as the gold standards of success. We believe that mastery of ‘core’ content and exceptional educational outcomes can be achieved without test anxiety, without dry lectures delivered to students, and without adults directing a child’s every move. We also know that now more than ever, top colleges and companies are looking for well-rounded students with a rich portfolio of projects, a resume of real-world experiences and the ability to express themselves with originality and confidence. Learners who partner with Prisma will be far ahead of their traditionally-educated peers in this respect.
Please have a look at our Program page to get a better idea of what a typical day at Prisma looks like.
Aside from our live synchronous workshops (which total 90 mins Monday - Thursday) families are free to schedule their days however they wish. Flexibility is one of the great benefits of our program. If families wish travel during the typical school year - that's no problem. We have many kids who tune into Prisma while traveling with their family (or simply take some time off during the school year). If families wish to fit in extracurriculars during the day or get-togethers with friends, that's also no problem. Having said this we do provide a suggested schedule for those families that want a clear structure for their child's day and many of our learners do follow this.
See our academic calendar here.
We believe that learners are more than a test score and that depth of knowledge cannot be assessed via traditional assessments. Learners are given rich written and verbal feedback on their contributions to their cohort, on their improvement in projects and badges, and on their self-paced, app-based academic learning progress.
That said, we perform a small amount of pre-testing in reading, math and writing to understand where each learner is coming from in terms of academic skills and we repeat these tests twice throughout the year to ensure that we are meeting the academic goals of our families. We also administer third-party and proprietary assessments (these are lightweight and generally require effort for coaches rather than kids) to measure learner well-being, 21st century skills acquisition, and social-emotional learning.
No. There has been considerable research showing that grades reduce kids' intrinsic motivation and encourage them to do 'just enough' rather than their best. Kids who receive low grades tend to get demotivated and kids who receive high grades often learn to put in just enough effort to get an A, rather than delving into topics for the love of learning and doing their absolute best. Instead of grades, Prisma learners receive in-depth and frequent written and verbal feedback from coaches and peers on their work. Learners are asked to revise their work until it represents their very best. In this way, we believe that kids' learning is far deeper than if you get a grade on an essay or assignment and then move on, perhaps never really understanding what you could have done to improve.
Having said this, if a families absolutely needs a transcript with grades for their child (e.g. if they are applying to a competitive private high school) our coaches have more than enough understanding of learner's performance to be able to provide this.
Here's a great article from Harvard Graduate School of Education on why competency-based badges are better than seat-time-based grades.
We work with your family to create a transcript that reflects your child's learning. Our workshops, projects and academic progress via adaptive learning apps can be translated into courses that would be recognized by traditional schools. We help each learner maintain a cumulative portfolio containing their Prisma documentation, writing, projects and coach feedback that families can include when applying for admission to selective schools and programs.
In order to participate in Prisma, learners need a strong internet connection and consistent access to a computer with a camera and a microphone—which can be built-in, like on a laptop. We also strongly recommend that learners have access to a quiet and private learning space that’s free from distraction.
We are not presently able to include a technology bundle within Prisma’s pricing.
Learners who partner with Prisma should be able to independently navigate online resources such as live video, learning websites, Google Suite, etc. While we provide each new learner with the tools to navigate the platforms that everyone at Prisma uses, if your child does not yet know how to type or independently navigate online resources, we may ask your child to complete personalized digital literacy training before starting Prisma.
At Prisma, socialization happens virtually, and we have found that it is rich, meaningful and natural for most of our learners. In fact, one of the things that has really beaten our own expectations is how quickly Prisma friendships have blossomed and how tight-knit the learner community has become. We have found that socialization at Prisma comes with many of the same upsides that in-person school provides (i.e. the chance to make friendships, share common interests, blow off steam and provide support) but without the downsides that some kids struggle with in an in-person school environment (i.e. cliques, bullying and other exclusionary behavior). Our program provides considerable opportunities for kids to form friendships, from our standups where kids meet daily with their coach to share their thoughts and have fun, to team challenges, small-group exercises and group projects. We also have learner-run clubs, from gaming and entrepreneurship to art and baking, and a highly engaged online learner forum.
Having said all this, we do think in-person socialization is still important and we strongly encourage Prisma learners to have extracurricular interests outside of Prisma that enable them to meet with other kids in person.