Academics

Academic Excellence is achieved at TCDS through high levels of student engagement in a Project Based Learning (PBL) curriculum that is centered around the needs of the individual student. Students at TCDS are actively learning, meaning that if you were to walk into one of our classrooms you would see students engaged in discussion, creating hands-on projects, asking questions, working one-on-one with teachers, and collaboratively problem solving with peers.

The TCDS curriculum is built using the Arizona public education standards as a guide. The Champion teachers and staff at TCDS then design a learning experience for their students that is tailored to the unique needs of their class and centered around student interests and abilities. Learning is not a one-size-fits-all process and our academic program mirrors this reality.

What is Project Based Learning?

Project-Based Learning, or (PBL) as it is often referred, is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. 

These are just three reasons why PBL is great for learners:

1. Goes beyond a Google search

If what students are learning at school can be Googled or answered by Alexa or Suri, then the student’s time is being wasted. PBL focuses on information and concepts that go beyond the superficialities of a Google search, and require thought and analysis. In PBL students aren’t just gaining knowledge in order to remember it; they’re gaining knowledge in order to use it. For example, which student do you think will be more motivated to learn geometry concepts? The student asked to memorize the pythagorean theorem in order to correctly answer a test question? Or the student tasked with building stage props that will be used by the school drama club? School should be a place that not only provides the conditions for students to gain knowledge and skills, but for them to be able to use their knowledge and skills in meaningful and tangible ways.

2. Students create products and make them public

Most school work typically ends up on a teacher’s desk, in an online folder, or squashed at the bottom of a backpack. PBL provides the opportunity for students to create a product and share it with an audience beyond the classroom. Students creating products and making them public not only can increase student engagement, but allows the learning to be perceived as more real and consequential than school work graded by the teacher and returned to a notebook.

3. Collaboration and community

PBL fosters an environment of collaboration and builds community. A key component to the PBL process is to partner with local experts and businesses, inviting these professionals to work with and inspire our students on campus, and for our students to routinely take field trips in order to learn something they can apply to their own project. 

The following are links to videos that show what PBL is and what it looks like in action:

Project Based Learning Explained

Project Based Learning: Raising Student Achievement For All Learners

Tiny House (8 minutes)

Taking Care of the Environment (10 minutes)

Finance Project (8 minutes)

What about homework?

When it comes to homework, TCDS believes the “heavy cognitive lifting” for students should take place at school, where they are steadily and consistently challenged by their teachers and peers to think critically, justify thoughts and opinions, problem solve individually and collaboratively, and to extend and apply their learning to real-world situations. Any work done at home is intended to be purposeful practice of skills that students can complete independently and efficiently. Homework is not intended to overwhelm students or families, rather to be an opportunity for students to strengthen knowledge, sharpen skills, and to apply learning in meaningful ways.


For additional information or questions about the academic program at TCDS, please contact our Principal, Mr. Jordan Krause: