Over the course of the year each student at DAA become an expert in 4 different topics during their ELA class. The topics are split up into what we call modules and are based on the EL Education ELA curriculum. Students engage in meaningful and authentic research throughout the each module including reading complex text, interviewing experts and field study. By the end of each module, students create an authentic final product and present it at our celebration of learning. Final products push students to do more than they ever thought was possible. In the past DAA students have published books, organized voter registration and produced podcasts. In order to invest students in this deep and authentic learning, we have to get them excited as soon as the module begins.
At the beginning of each module every crew participates in a series of activities called the module launch. Launches can last from one class period to several days. During a module launch students engage in activities designed to spark their sense of curiosity. They explore resources related to the learning that they will do. They solve mysteries about their topic. Sometimes, they even start to analyze models of the final products that they will eventually create themselves. These launch experiences not only engage our students, but they also promote equity. Kids come to crew with a variety of experiences and interests. This means that they have varying levels of background knowledge related to any given topic. Participating in a module launch allows all learners to access the content and start to become experts regardless of prior knowledge on the module topic.
During the first module, our students studied Greek Mythology, a topic that most students were unfamiliar with. Students started their launch week with an amazing race. They were split into teams. Each team had to discover which figure from Greek Mythology represented their team. They completed a series of challenges designed to introduce them to common myths. After completing each challenge, they received a clue. During one challenge, students read about the myth of Arachne’s Web and completed the spider web challenge on our new low ropes course. In another challenge, they had to complete a team building activity to make their way to Mount Olympus.
After each team completed the amazing race we celebrated with a few chants and cheers. Then students immediately dove into analyzing what would eventually be their final product, a myth that represents one our our DAA habits of character.
Module launches are really powerful experiences. They spark academic conversation, expose students to rich content and allow us to continue to maintain a strong sense of crew. Our first launch of the year was in September, and still, students are talking about as they finish our their first module.