Anderson Children's Foundation

Help SPARKI Come Alive! (2018-2019)

Desert Learning Academy is a hybrid alternative school of choice and part of the Palm Springs Unified School District. Established in 2015, this school provides personalized learning experiences for every student. Desert Learning Academy is a "tuition-free" and a progressive choice to prepare students for the 21st century world. Students in grades 2-12 experience an education that molds to their strengths and builds on the essential skills required for the future plans of parents and guardians. We serve students from all schools and surrounding counties (Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Imperial Counties) to meet their personalized learning needs.

We are thrilled to be a second year recipient of the Anderson Children's Foundation grant. Last year, we were able to establish a robotics program that allowed our students to program robots, demonstrate and teach others at the National Cue Conference, Parent Engagement Conference for the district, and make digital storytelling films. This year we are looking forward to expanding our robotics program to offer advanced classes in programming and coding. Our elementary program has an emphasis on STEAM education. Our lessons are hands-on and give students the opportunity to experience the skills required for 21st century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

Robotics (2017-2018)

Desert Learning Academy is a grade 2-12 virtual school completing its second year in the Palm Springs Unified School District. Our students have engaged in digital storytelling, engineering projects such as designing parachutes and wind turbine blades, and have completed They are ready to take their skills to another level by doing something they've asked to do for years: Programming Robots! This grant will allow us to create our first robotics lab.

At Desert Learning Academy, we are focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Education because it encourages reasoning and thinking skills that students need in a world where everything will be enhanced by the use of robotics. Google's Senior Vice-President, Susan Wojcicki explains, "Learning to code makes kids feel empowered, creative, and confident. If we want our young students to retain these traits into adulthood, a great option is to expose them to computer engineering in their youth." Robotics offers classroom activities that teach high-value STEAM content and provides opportunities to powerfully address ELA and Math Common Core Standards. In fact, there are connections to robotics across the full spectrum of the curriculum. Robotics is also a highly effective way to foster essential work skills like collaboration, problem solving and project management. It does all this while keeping kids so motivated and engaged that getting them to stop working and move on to the rest of the school day can be a challenge; a good problem to have!

The next important step for student robotics will be to make it a central part of the regular, daytime classroom experience. Robotics can work magic even for early elementary students. Students build robots to help them understand the characters and plots of books they read. Story analysis and comprehension are greatly enabled and enhanced. This same approach of using robotics to focus and enable descriptive, explanatory language can work in higher grades, too. The Common Core ELA standards indicate that students should be able to effectively present knowledge and ideas verbally. This is my dream for our students at Desert Learning Academy.