Students learn through projects at La Crosse Design Institute - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Students learn through projects at La Crosse Design Institute


LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Seventh and eighth graders in La Crosse who learn better in a non-traditional setting have the chance to take part in a unique learning environment in La Crosse.

It's a charter school called the La Crosse Design Institute.

At the beginning of the year, forty students are handed the same curriculum teachers are given and they need to work through it by the end of the year.

Students have to come up with a 6 plan project proposal that meets curriculum targets. Once their advisor approves the proposal, it shows up on their calendar and that helps them stay on track and know what they should be doing each day.

Cassy Collins, Eighth grade student, spent the last month making a wind turbine.

"I was hoping to learn how they work, why they're tall and why they're white," Collins said.

She found out what different shapes of blades do for energy production.

"Right now it's got 65 volts of energy that it's making," Collins said.

The project earned her credits in math and science.

Her classmate, Aly Purdum is also earning math and science credit by making a robotic hand.

"I made this because I'm interested in health fields but also technology," Purdum said.

She read books about robotics and prosthetics before she began construction.

"Actually it's pretty natural," Purdum said. "There's a little bit of friction I have to fix otherwise you don't feel it."

"There are no free passes at La Crosse Design Institute," Nick Pretasky, LDI Advisor said. "Since students have chosen to come here then they're choosing to do the work."

Students can work where ever they want and at their own pace but they need to meet the goals they set in their proposal.

"There's very minimal sit and get," Pretasky said. "There's a lot of activity a lot of doing, creation. We focus on higher order of thinking skills."

While it may seem like fun to learn your own way, students said LDI is more challenging than a traditional school.

"I like it a lot better because it's easier for me, but it's a lot harder because it's more challenging but the hands on learning is easier," Collins said.

Most students aren't used to this type of learning.

But, Pretasky said they'll use the critical thinking and time management skills they've learned for the rest of their lives.

LDI is in its second school year and is still growing.

Next year, it will welcome 20 sixth grade students.

Students interested in enrolling, that live inside the district, can register in December.  Students outside the district can register in February, March and April.

Students are chosen by a lottery after the open enrollment period closes.

LDI students invite community members to see the projects they've been working on.

The showcase is Thursday evening from 4:30 to 6:00 at LDI, 1900 Denton Street; the school is in the basement of Longfellow Middle School.

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