Plano ISD’s Daring New Tech High School

Projector Plant

When you enter The Academy, the first thing you encounter is a tropical plant with flat digital projection surfaces instead of leaves, displaying videos about the school played on a variety of adorable pico projectors.


Renee Godi, The Academy’s principal, took us through a detailed overview of everything connected to the new school’s origins, approach, and the philosophy behind STEAM–Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 111118

These walls are a whiteboard!

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 110834

Teacher desks. Vacant.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 110126

The Academy renovated their entire building with the help of corporate funding. The new floor plan of the school is meant to emphasize collaboration and a sense of creative freedom and eliminate the sense of ownership that comes with classrooms.


Evernote Snapshot 20131113 105449

A view of the shop for using heavy machinery (and even welding). Note the 21st-century cubbies in the back. They’re for evolving submarines made of PVC pipe, not tote trays filled with worksheets.


Another view of the shop.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 105518

I’ll forgo the obvious opportunity for a Big Brother joke. This is a wide-angle webcam trained on the shop for the world to see.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 113449

Endless cascades of project ideas on the wall of the teachers’ war room give an indication of the boundless creativity present among the Facilitators. This is aided by the immense privilege of a zero year: each grade level team spends an entire year without students developing meticulous project plans and developing themselves. Conferences, expert coaching, role-play, and lots and lots of collaboration are all on the menu.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 113317

Enlargements of the standards for all the subject areas on the wall in the teachers’ collab room are meant to allow teachers to discover all the common territory on which cross-curricular projects can be built. That is the whole philosophy of STEAM: it should teach all the letters at once.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 113151

At The Academy, this issue comes up so often, they created a visual to hang on the wall.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 112453

This magazine is published by Dale Dougherty, a founder of the Maker movement, who has already visited The Academy to speak to the students. (Click the photo to go to, one of Dale’s web projects where you can find the Makerspace Playbook.)



Traditional learning settings still have their place at The Academy, at least those like a chem lab where hands-on, collaborative learning experiences are the rule of the day.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 111814

A chemistry experiment to allow students to discover ways to purify water. Supplies and materials are abundant.



A wall of storyboards.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 110002

The front cover of a student-made magazine to encourage human beings to colonize the moon. STEAM-y.


Evernote Snapshot 20131113 105920

A close-up of one of the magazine storyboards.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 110027

A spread from inside the magazine. Note the mix of real advertisements with student generated layouts and content. Am I being too presumptuous when I say this group chose a red-white-and-blue color scheme to attract American colonists with a subtle nod to patriotism?

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 110043

Another spread.


Evernote Snapshot 20131113 110018

Another spread from the same magazine. Note the subscription card.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 105824

Another project from the early days of this baby school: propaganda. History and the letter A of STEAM shine bright here.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 110346

Another in-depth collaboration between history and art. This student explained to me that coats-of-arms allowed in depth study of cultural symbols like animals and even colors. This one was for France.

Evernote Snapshot 20131113 105735

Solar car project.


On day two, students were already learning through projects. Their objective was to take cardboard, plus other up-cycled materials to build a derby car that could actually run off of this ramp. Greatest distance wins.


Students fitness center. Students in The Academy have flexibility and choice in how they fulfill their PE credit and it includes the opportunity to document workout time in this center before or after school.


Library and seating area.


Facebooktwitterlinkedinby feather

Leave a Reply