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 local peers.

At a glance

  • Open to: Rising 4th-8th graders, grouped by age for some activities
  • Locations: Anywhere in the United States (fully virtual)
  • Cohort size: 12-20 geographically co-located learners
  • Model: Virtual co-learning at home with powerful in-person experiences
  • Academics: Project-based, interest-driven, and high-school preparatory 
  • Real-world learning: Prepare for life, broaden perspectives, and become an expert
  • Teacher: Facilitated by a Learning coach who mentors, supports, and guides 
  • Calendar: Three ten-week learning cycles, winter service learning, and summer apprenticeships 
  • Parents: Provide technology and space, supervise at home, communicate with team
  • Launching: September 8, 2020. Get started to revolutionize education with us.
  • Co-Learning network: A full replacement for traditional “school”
  • Philosophy: Progressive education with a touch of self-directed learning

An engaging, customizable learning journey

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.

Supportive, dynamic coaches to mentor and inspire

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.

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.

  • 10:00am: Stand up
  • Prisma learners start each day with a late-morning Stand up meeting to check in, connect, and bond with their cohort and Learning coach.
  • 10:30am–11:30am: Life skills or Worldview badge
  • Every morning Monday through Thursday, cohorts work together to earn Life skills and Worldview badges through virtual workshops, Socratic discussions, and group projects.
  • 11:30am–11:45am: Accountability team check in
  • Learners check in with the three other learners in their accountability team to set goals for the day.
  • 12:00pm–3:00pm: Independent work time
  • Learners use this time to work on individual research and projects for their Academic Knowledge badges or on deliberate practice for their Mastery badge.
  • 3:00pm–3:15pm: Daily sign out
  • Learners check back in with their accountability group to report what they did for the day and if they met their daily goal.
  • Friday
  • Fridays with Prisma are flexible days for learners to meet up with other members of their cohort in person, participate in Prisma-wide or cohort-wide events, or spend time exploring academic, social, or personal passions.
  • Cycle 1
  • Sep 8Nov 24, 2020
  • Service learning project
  • Nov 30Dec 18, 2020
  • Cycle 2
  • Jan 4Mar 25, 2021
  • Cycle 3
  • Apr 12Jun 24, 2021
  • Flexible summer learning time
  • Jun 28Aug 13, 2021

A year-round experience with the benefits of summer break

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.

Frequently asked questions

What's the curriculum?
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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. 

  • Learners earn ten Knowledge badges each year. Badges cover a diverse range of engaging topics that are more like specialized college courses than regular school subjects, from “Pleasure Reading” to “Digital Art” to “Futurology” to “Brains.” Learners complete Knowledge badges at their own pace using high-quality resources vetted, curated and designed by the Prisma team. All badges allow students to dive as deep as they want into content they’re interested in and to select or create their own tasks and projects to demonstrate their learning. The last three weeks of each learning cycle is spent working on an interdisciplinary project completely designed by the learner, incorporating what they’ve learned from their Knowledge badges. 
  • Mastery badges: Learners earn one Mastery badge per year by engaging in deliberate practice to develop a skill of their choice—anything from Italian cooking to classical piano to basketball free-throws. 
  • Life skills & Worldview badges: Learners meet virtually with their learning coach and the other members of their cohort on Monday-Thursday mornings to work toward Worldview and Life skills badges. To earn Worldview badges, learners dive deep into a challenge or question affecting society—from school reform to factual and unbiased news—and debate, discuss, and propose solutions. To earn Life skills badges, learners participate in twice-weekly workshops, lessons, and expert Q&As to gain real-world skills they need to be successful, like oral and written communication, developing good habits, becoming a leader, and project design & management. 
  • Experiential learning badges: Learners earn three Experiential learning badges per year, one for completing a local service learning project with their cohort during the month of December, one for engaging in one of our many social clubs, and the other for pursuing a summer learning opportunity, such as volunteer work, a youth leadership program, a part-time job, or an internship/apprenticeship. Learning coaches help connect learners with appropriate summer learning opportunities and mentor them before, during, and after the experience.
How is educational content delivered?
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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).

How do Prisma learners spend their time together?
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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.

How do learners experience socialization and community outside of a brick-and-mortar school environment?
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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.


What evidence suggests that Prisma’s model is effective?
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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.

What makes an interactive, experiential online learning environment better than a traditional classroom?
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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.

How much is Prisma focused on academics?
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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.

What is the yearly schedule?
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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.

What does a typical day look like?
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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.

How flexible is Prisma with regard to scheduling?
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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!

What is Prisma's annual calendar for 2020-2021?
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Prisma cohorts start on September 8, 2020. Check out our 2020-2021 calendar.

Does Prisma do any kind of testing?
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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.

Are there grades?
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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.

Does Prisma provide a transcript?
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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.

What technology requirements does Prisma have?
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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.

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

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We’re full for Fall 2020—but we’ll be launching more cohorts soon.
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