• Full FrameEducation Week's Photo Blog

    Da Vinci Academy Inspires Artful Moments

    by Swikar Patel posted January 7, 2014
    Maya Ortiz climbs on a rock wall during a break as her father Juan Ortiz helps on P.O.L., or Presentation of Learning day at Da Vinci Innovation Academy in Hawthorne, Cal. on Dec. 17. The unique school combines two days of programming to be paired with three days of homeschooling by parents, with heavy parental involvement at the school, including P.O.L. day when the students dress in formal wear and are accompanied by their parents to present what they have been learning. --David Walter Banks for Education Week

    Maya Ortiz climbs on a rock wall during a break from lessons as her father, Juan Ortiz, helps on “Presentation of Learning Day” at the Da Vinci Innovation Academy in Hawthorne, Calif. The school combines two days of programming, to be paired with three days of homeschooling by parents. During “Presentation of Learning Day,” students don formal clothes to present a summary of what they learned during the semester. –David Walter Banks for Education Week

    Lately my wife (photographer Kendrick Brinson) and I have been pushing each other to make more out of each assignment; to never look at any job or subject matter as lesser than another. For me photography is as much about a feeling as it is reality. Whether it be my own personal state of mind at the time, or an energy the subject or place exudes. For me, this place (Da Vinci Innovation Academy) exuded a special feeling. It certainly didn’t come from me — as I had injured my back the day before, and was feeling way less than 100 percent.

    Students play during a break on P.O.L., or Presentation of Learning day at Da Vinci Innovation Academy in Hawthorne, CA on December 17, 2013. The unique school combines two days of programming to be paired with three days of homeschooling by parents, with heavy parental involvement at the school, including P.O.L. day when the students dress in formal wear and are accompanied by their parents to present what they have been learning.

    Students play during a break at Da Vinci Innovation Academy. — David Walter Banks for Education Week

    Emily Rainey gives her presentation to her teacher, her parents Michelle Rainey, on right with other daughter Hannah Rainey, and Robert Rainey, her aunt Bonnie Rainey, her grandparents Caryl Rainey and George Rainey, and her classmates, including Elijah Adams, middle, on P.O.L., or Presentation of Learning day at Da Vinci Innovation Academy in Hawthorne, CA on December 17, 2013. The unique school combines two days of programming to be paired with three days of homeschooling by parents, with heavy parental involvement at the school, including P.O.L. day when the students dress in formal wear and are accompanied by their parents to present what they have been learning.

    The Rainey family listens as Emily Rainey, center, presents a speech on what she has learned at Da Vinci Innovation Academy.  –David Walter Banks for Education Week

    Mark Lucas, left, and Eric Smyrski listen to fellow students give oral presentations as they wait to give their own on P.O.L., or Presentation of Learning day at Da Vinci Innovation Academy in Hawthorne, CA on December 17, 2013. The unique school combines two days of programming to be paired with three days of homeschooling by parents, with heavy parental involvement at the school, including P.O.L. day when the students dress in formal wear and are accompanied by their parents to present what they have been learning.

    Students Mark Lucas, left, and Eric Smyrski wait their turn during “Presentation of Learning Day” at Da Vinci Innovation Academy. –David Walter Banks for Education Week

    The school could be looked at as a handful of small buildings strung together with chain link fence and unfinished projects. What I saw was a place that had love and care put into every little crack and crevice. Classroom walls covered with the art of students, murals outside hand-painted by school parents, a chicken coop, musical instruments, a hand-made climbing wall, and even a tent-like structure serving as the art room.

    Veronica Velez sits on a bench outside during a break on P.O.L., or Presentation of Learning day at Da Vinci Innovation Academy in Hawthorne, CA on December 17, 2013. The unique school combines two days of programming to be paired with three days of homeschooling by parents, with heavy parental involvement at the school, including P.O.L. day when the students dress in formal wear and are accompanied by their parents to present what they have been learning.

    Veronica Velez plays a game on a bench outside Da Vinci Innovation Academy. –David Walter Banks for Education Week

    Where some might see a messy corner, you only had to look a little further to find a student-run redesign project in progress. To me it was a space and teaching style that fostered the right kind of attitude and learning in young minds, and that was echoed with the bright, polite students I met. Sometimes it’s not grandiosity and money that make a place special.

    I’ve been in small towns in Mexico in cinder-block courtyard restaurants with a better feeling than a five-star restaurant in Los Angeles. One of my most memorable assignments was spent in a tiny white room with nothing but a piano and a singer-songwriter creating new work all day. Some of the favorite music images that I’ve produced were shot in a basement in the suburbs. All that to reinforce the idea that we have to allow ourselves to be open to seeing more than what is there on first glance.

    DWB bio photo

    About the photographer: David Walter Banks is a photographer based in Los Angeles, Calif. A graduate of the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, David describes himself as a conceptually-based documentary, lifestyle and portrait photographer, focusing on long-term projects and fine art with a background in newspaper journalism. To see more of David’s work click here.

     

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