Instead of attending traditional classes, each learner earns Knowledge badges by exploring our world-class curated resources, completing challenging hands-on tasks, and dreaming up their own independent projects.
Learners earn Real life learning badges by attending live video discussions and workshops, picking a skill and practicing it regularly, and going out in their community to volunteer and gain career skills.
Instead of learning from traditional teachers, Prisma cohorts are led by a local “Learning coach.” Prisma coaches are education professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds who have been top-rated public and private school teachers, counselors, youth mentors, and more.
Coaches don’t give lectures, grade tests, or develop curriculum, freeing up their time to develop a personal relationship with every learner. They help kids set goals, track their progress, and provide lots of one-on-one help and feedback.
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.
During September through June, Prisma learners experience three learning cycles, with breaks to recharge in between. We don’t believe that learning should stop in the summer, but we also know that summer is often the best time for kids to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning opportunities. So our summer learning is designed to be flexible, encompassing any growth opportunity the learner is interested in exploring.
Within each trimester, Prisma cohorts schedule myriad activities, trips, and events to connect in person and virtually.
The Prisma curriculum has two core components: Knowledge and Real world learning. Each is equally important and learners spend about half of their time each week on each component. Knowledge badges incorporate study of seven academic disciplines (English, Math, Social Studies, History, Arts & Culture, Tech & Design, and Self & Wellness), and Real world learning is comprised of Mastery, Life skills, Worldview, and Experiential learning.
Educational content is delivered via a variety of resources and mediums. Group time is primarily facilitated by live video, and we use a wide selection of apps and websites for uniquely paced, self-directed, and collaborative learning, as curated by our curriculum team. We also offer in-person components that both reinforce and enhance the online portion of our program (once it is safe to do so respective to COVID-19).
We believe that time is precious, so we don’t ask kids to get together without a valuable purpose. Thankfully, fantastic resources exist for learning math, languages, and all sorts of topics independently. As such, learners’ time together focuses on collaborative experiences that are enriched by a community environment, such as current events discussions, presentations of individual passion projects, debates ranging from ethics and history to politics and philosophy, experiential, multi-month group projects, community service learning, and more.
At Prisma, we leverage modern technology to facilitate meaningful, rich social connections, and our network of Prisma cohorts allows learners to to form social clubs and plan virtual activities to make new friends around the country based on common interests. We are also committed to frequently getting kids away from their screens and out in their communities. Part of what makes Prisma exceptional are the local and community-focused elements of our program. We are global and local citizens who create, debate, problem-solve, and play together.
Prisma’s model draws inspiration from project-based learning, inquiry and problem-based learning, interest-driven learning, social-emotional learning, and deeper learning theory. Each of these approaches has empirically proven positive results for learners including increased academic performance, critical thinking, creativity, long-term motivation, and love of learning.
Our flexible, online learning environment allows learners to deepen their understanding of content that interests them by learning to be independent researchers, confident digital citizens, and skilled project and time managers. Instead of being limited to the resources available inside four school walls, learners have the freedom and guidance to follow their curiosity wherever it leads, to destinations virtual and physical. Our interactive components allow learners to collaborate authentically with their peers, rather than listening to dry online lectures or conversing in dull discussion forums. Our coaches are highly trained in using technology to enhance their ability to educate, rather than trying to poorly reproduce traditional classroom methods online.
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 acceptance to highly ranked colleges and high 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 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.
Prisma operates on a year-round schedule, with several breaks ranging in length from two to four weeks. Learners spend September through June working on Knowledge, Life Skills, Worldview, and Mastery badges during three twelve-week learning cycles. Each cycle ends with an expo day, where families come together to celebrate students’ hard work on their self-directed projects. In July and August, learners pursue an Experience badge by completing a summer opportunity of their choice. The summer cycle schedule is highly flexible, to accommodate family travel and other summer fun.
Learners who choose Prisma generally expect to spend 5-6 hours per day learning. Each day starts with a 10 am Stand up meeting with other members of their cohort and their Learning coach. Learners then participate in working toward either their Life skills or Worldview badge, during which they debate, discuss, and work in small teams to solve problems and create solutions to real-world problems. Learners are then free to structure their time in the way that works best for them, be it working on Knowledge badges, practicing for their Mastery badge, joining one of our clubs or social groups, or working with other Prisma learners on a group project. Check out our sample week in the life of a learner.
Prisma cohorts generally engage in morning live group learning with afternoons reserved for independent work (offering greater flexibility later in the day). Because our goal is for your child to have a rich educational experience, including contributing to a collaborative group environment, we ask learners to consistently participate in synchronous group time. That being said, we're willing to consider your family's flexibility needs, and missing a day here and there is totally fine!
Prisma cohorts start on September 8, 2020. Check out our 2020-2021 calendar.
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 in Worldview and Life skills badges, on their improvement in their Mastery badge, and on their self-selected projects in Knowledge badges.
That said, we perform a small amount of pre-testing in Reading and Math to understand where each learner is coming from in terms of academic skills. We also administer regular survey-style assessments (not like traditional school tests) to measure learner well-being, skill acquisition, and achievement.
No, kids who learn with Prisma earn badges that represent their mastery of content. They also receive frequent written and verbal feedback from their Learning coach and peers.
Prisma’s badges can be translated to create a mastery-based transcript that would be recognized by any traditional school. 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.
If your family doesn’t have a computer that can be designated to your child’s primary use, please contact your local school district to see whether your child’s local school allows ‘homeschoolers’ to check out laptops (one-to-one laptop programs), access the school library, etc. While we are investigating how to connect learners with technology resources, 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 Docs and PowerPoint, 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 a digital literacy orientation before starting Prisma.