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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Design for Success

NEWS                                                                                    Walnut Valley Unified School District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            880 S. Lemon Avenue
December 19, 2012                                                            Walnut, CA 91789

Kelli Gile, Office of Community Resources
(909) 595-1261 ext. 31204

Design for Success
Academic Design Program gives students a real context to learning and real-world application to their required academics.

WALNUT, CA--The Academic Design Program (ADP) has launched at Walnut High this year with 77 sophomores working through real-world problems in search of real-world solutions.

The new core engages students in an interactive learning environment that develops higher-level thinking, creativity, problem solving, and reasoning skills.

Students work in groups to complete hands-on projects that combine the core subject areas of Math, English, and Social Studies.

ADP meets during Periods 1-3 with teachers Kate Borihane -English-language arts, Justin Panlilio -social studies, Jennifer La Certe –math, and Sue McCracken, grade level coordinator.

The ADP Team has the flexibility to design their program in the technology rich classrooms equipped with iPads, desktops, and NetBooks.

“When you walk into the three connected classrooms there’s a different feeling,” said Principal Jeff Jordan.

 “There are no bells. The time is theirs and if they need more time in math that day – they take it. It’s their choice. There’s not a lot of talking at the students – there’s more collaboration,” he added.

The student teams design and build solutions to challenges related to building a community.  ADP is modeled after the award winning Design-Based Learning program.

“Without the direct instruction - it’s noisy - and that’s good because learning is taking place,” Jordan said.

Students grouped in nine Domains are in the process of building their communities and dealing with the problems that come with urbanization and political systems in a world where they are mostly physically isolated, with growing interactions. World History, English, and Math standards are embedded in the activities.

“Students are finding that they are an active part of the building process – not just in their Domain, but in the program itself,” La Certe said. The connected classes encourage movement and gives flexibility for working in different configurations. One is designated as the technology base, another is the building room base, and the third is general purpose.

One recent group challenge was designing an “innovation” that improves life and efficiencies in their domains - and also makes money.  

The project allowed students to experience some of the challenges of the Industrial Revolution before ever discussing it. While marketing the products, they used the English skills of persuasion and rhetoric. In math they learned how to account for their finances and explored concepts including percent of change, simple and compound interest, and graphing.

Teams promoted their creative products ranging from a Canoe Car and water-powered Hydro Generator, to a Caterpillar Cleaner during a Trade Show,

“It’s packed full of awesomeness,” said one team holding touting their project while holding up a “Like Us On Facebook” sign’ The Miracle Works team promoted their “Bigger Fruit, Longer Life” invention.

“I like fruit – this one is my favorite,” exclaimed Panlilio. After the presentation, students compared and contrasted their experiences with the Industrial Revolution. The challenge fulfilled English standards with persuasion and rhetoric in the writing and presentations. And in Math, groups learned about the financial aspect with percentages, percent of change, integers, graphing, and simple and compound interest.

The goal of ADP is to meet the needs of all types of learners, while maintaining a rigorous and relevant curriculum by tapping into the innate curiosity of students. ADP meets A-G requirements and students have personal learning plans. The core also aligns well with the new Common Core Standards as the focus shifts to reasoning and problem-solving skills.

“Common Core fits perfectly with ADP and the transition will be smooth. It’s all about reasoning, understanding, experiential, and application – and our kids are applying all these skills,” La Certe said.

“We are on a mission to help kids succeed,” said Principal Jeff Jordan.  

In the first six weeks of school over 50% of the students improved their grades compared to the end of the previous school year.

Next year, the pilot program will double in size by adding another grade level. The long-term plan is to be a three-year program for sophomores through seniors.

“We just at the starting point right now and we are very proud of this program,” Jordan said.


Eric Garcia described his innovation project to Elisa Salmon. 

Marisa Levy used a video to demonstrate how her Caterpillar Crawler innovation worked. 

Rebecca Green shares about her product the Wonder House and Wonder Spray that helps make produce grow bigger and better as Samantha Garcia took notes.