A program that gives learners the power to be their best

Prisma reimagines school, providing kids the flexibility to pursue their interests alongside a talented coach and a supportive community of peers

At a glance

  • Eligibility: 4th-10th graders (approx. age 9-18)
  • Format: Comprehensive, global virtual school (Aug - Jun)
  • Philosophy: Learner-centric, self-paced, outcomes-driven, interdisciplinary and hands-on
  • Academics: Math, science, reading and writing targeting 150%+ learner growth
  • Geography: Open to anyone who can operate in US time zones
  • Pod size: 80-90 learners per pod; 15-30 learners per coach
  • Teacher: Facilitated by expert Learning coaches who mentor, support and guide
  • Coach ratio: 15-30 learners per coach; 4 coaches per pod
  • Calendar: Six 6-week learning cycles—organized by themes—plus a service learning cycle
  • Parents: Minimal time commitment. Most families spend less than one hour/day supporting their child

Our promise to Prisma learners

A Curriculum that brings joy and relevance back to learning

Our interdisciplinary, theme-based curriculum consists of three main components:

  • Live virtual workshops
    Socratic discussions, team challenges and writing workshops to develop communication, critical thinking and collaboration skills
  • Projects
    Hands-on, interdisciplinary projects that explore real-world issues and develop research, creativity and organizational skills
  • Individualized learning routines
    Develop core academic skills via a custom plan tailored to each child’s interests, ability level and speed of learning

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.

Facilitated by dynamic, expert learning coaches

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.

Assessment designed for the needs of the child, not the school district

Low-stress, holistic assessment
We take assessment very seriously at Prisma because it helps us to understand if we are delivering on our promises to your child. But we do it in a way that is low-stress for kids, holistic (i.e. that doesn’t only look at academic progress) and focused on capabilities not retention of facts. Assessment at Prisma is driven by two goals: to ensure learners 1) do their best work and 2) develop the academic and life skills they’ll need to succeed in the future.
Focus is on
kids achieving
their best
At Prisma we do not use grades, which research has shown reduces intrinsic motivation and encourages kids to do ‘just enough.’ We use detailed feedback (e.g. instead of getting a grade on a short story, a learner will get in-depth peer and coach feedback, revise and resubmit); Expo days, where kids present their work to the entire community; badges, which kids earn for demonstrating mastery; and cohort culture to encourage kids to maximize their potential.
Guided by our proprietary
We’ve developed a proprietary framework—our Learning Prism—to capture the diverse range of skills we believe kids will need to thrive in their futures, and we assess them accordingly via a third-party academic assessment, a social-emotional assessment and our own proprietary 21st century skills assessment.

A strong, supportive community with no room for cliques

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.

Learning beyond ABCs and 123s

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.

A day in the life with Prisma

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.

  • 10:00am Standup
  • Prisma learners start each day with a late-morning standup meeting to check in, connect and bond with their cohort and Learning coach. Standups focus on community building, social-emotional learning and having fun!
  • 10:30am–12:00pm Independent learning routines
  • Every morning, Monday through Thursday, learners work on their customized learning plans, which include a mix of math, english language arts and coding apps; pleasure reading and book club; and electives such as foreign languages, fitness and the arts.
  • 12:00pm–1:00pm Lunch
  • Learners are encouraged to get offline for an hour to eat, move about, connect with friends and relax.
  • 1:00pm–2:00pm Live workshops
  • Kids get together with a specialist coach for an engaging, thought-provoking, collaborative workshop. Each day, Monday-Thursday, features a different workshop: Problem solving, Ethical decision-making, Strategy Simulation and Writing Workshop.
  • 3:00pm–3:30pm Projects
  • Learners work on their theme-based projects—either individually or in groups—and are guided through the various phases of developing their project: research, experimentation, creation and presentation.
  • Fridays
  • Fridays with Prisma are flexible days for learners to connect with other members of their cohort via social clubs; participate in ThinkTank and other cohort-wide events; or spend time exploring academic, social or personal passions.
  • Coach|Learner 1-on-1s
  • Learners meet weekly with their mentor-coach to set goals, talk through their progress and just generally catch-up.
  • Kickoff & Community week
  • Aug 22 - 26, 2022
  • Fall
  • Aug 29 - Nov 18, 2022
  • Winter
  • Dec 1 Mar 13, 2023
  • Spring
  • Mar 28 Jun 8, 2023

A year at Prisma

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.

Technology embedded from the ground up to make learning better

We’re strong believers in the power of technology to create a more customized, adaptable and seamless educational experience and in the importance of kids understanding and being comfortable with technology. Many parents tell us that after a few months at Prisma their child can navigate, research and troubleshoot online better than they can! We use technology in two ways: we have our own suite of Prisma tools, which will grow over time, and we integrate best-in-class third-party solutions—be they adaptive learning apps, online simulations or time-management tools.

Parents at Prisma

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.

Frequently asked questions

What's the curriculum?

Prisma Curriculum

Why interdisciplinary, project-based learning?

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.

What is Prisma's approach to screen time?

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.

How much is Prisma focused on academics?

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.

What does a typical day look like?

Please have a look at our Program page to get a better idea of what a typical day at Prisma looks like.

How flexible is Prisma with regard to scheduling?

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.

What is Prisma's annual calendar?

See our academic calendar here.

Does Prisma do any kind of testing?

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.

Are there grades?

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 family 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.

Does Prisma provide a transcript?

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.

What technology requirements does Prisma have?

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.

What computer and technology skills are needed to navigate Prisma’s learning platform?

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.

How does Prisma provide enough socialization for my child?

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.

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