Da Vinci Schools

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Da Vinci Schools
Da Vinci logo small.jpg
13500 Aviation Boulevard
Hawthorne, California
Type Public, Charter
Opened 2009
Grades K-12
Number of students Da Vinci Design - 510
Da Vinci Science - 522
Da Vinci Innovation Academy - 310
Da Vinci Communications - 135

Da Vinci Schools are small, college-preparatory K-12 public charter schools located at the corners of Hawthorne, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach in Los Angeles, California, United States, in close proximity to leading aerospace and high tech companies, design firms, and major universities.

Da Vinci Schools are dedicated to preparing students for college completion and 21st century jobs through an interdisciplinary real-world, project-based "learn by doing" curriculum that exceeds state content standards and California's "a-g" university admissions requirements. Da Vinci signature programs and practices include: a small and personalized learning environment where every student is known, seen and valued; strategic public-private partnerships with many industry, higher-ed, and education innovator leaders; a Work Experience Program in which high school students gain on-the-job, real-world work experience; and an Early College Program in which students take college classes for credit (at no cost to families) while they simultaneously earn their high school diploma.

Established in 2009 as independently governed and operated charter schools, Da Vinci Schools have earned a reputation for hands-on learning and a new public-private partnership model where industry helps to define the real-world skill sets needed to prepare students for jobs in today's global economy. Dr. David Brown, the former executive director of the WASC Accrediting Commission, said "Da Vinci Schools are among the very finest I've seen." In 2010, California's top educator, former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, said Da Vinci Schools should be a "model for other public schools in the state." [1] The Los Angeles Times reported that Da Vinci Schools offer a teaching model that would make Leonardo da Vinci proud.[2]

Ninety-eight ((98%) of Da Vinci graduates have completed the necessary coursework for admission to a University of California or Cal State campus. Da Vinci graduates have been accepted to every UC and CSU, and to Stanford, MIT, Yale, Dartmouth, USC, LMU, and many other prestigious private and public universities across the nation.

During the 2014-15 school year, Da Vinci Schools served approximately 1,375 students from 82 different zip codes.

Da Vinci Schools are fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) and are a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools.


Da Vinci Schools opened in August 2009 as independently governed and operated charter high schools serving children from the Wiseburn community and beyond.[3] Da Vinci Schools are a nonprofit independently governed Local Education Agency authorized by the Wiseburn Unified School District and approved by the California Department of Education.

The name Da Vinci Schools was suggested by students in an ideation workshop in 2008 because Leonardo da Vinci has often been described as the archetypal Renaissance artist, scientist and engineer who learned by doing.

Admission to Da Vinci Schools is by lottery pursuant to California charter law. Students who reside in the Wiseburn community are given admission priority to attend Da Vinci high schools as Da Vinci Communications, Da Vinci Design, and Da Vinci Science are the community's "home" high schools.

In 2011, the Da Vinci Design was moved to 12501 S. Isis Avenue, Hawthorne, CA, to accommodate the growing student body. The location of the original school was used to expand the Da Vinci Science, as well as to make room for its newest school, Da Vinci Innovation Academy (K-8).

In August 2011, Da Vinci Schools opened the Da Vinci Innovation Academy, a "hybrid homeschool model" for K-8 students combining school-site instruction with home-based learning.

Da Vinci Communications high school opened in 2013 funded in part by a Next Generation Learning Challenges grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundations, and by Northrop Grumman, Chevron, and two private foundations. Da Vinci Communications will offer students an optional fifth year of high school providing students with the opportunity to complete UC/CSU transfer requirements.

Da Vinci Schools are fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges through June 2019.


Authorized by the Wiseburn Unified School District, Da Vinci Schools currently operates four charter schools in the city of Hawthorne.

Da Vinci Design is a school that focuses students on a curriculum that prepares students for 21st century careers in architecture, product design, graphic design, and other jobs that call for skills in art, design, science and technology.

Da Vinci Science is a school that focuses students on a curriculum in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, providing students with hands-on experience. Da Vinci Science is a certified Project Lead The Way school offering all of the Pathway to Engineering PLTW classes, many for dual credit/ concurrent enrollment through El Camino College.

Da Vinci Innovation Academy was opened in August 2011 to serve as a new hybrid educational model for K-8 students that combines school-site instruction with home-based learning.

Da Vinci Communications has a project-based curriculum with an increased focus on computer-based instruction. It features Early College/Dual Enrollment classes that count for both high school and college credit. Students may also complete an optional fifth year of high school in order to complete an Associate’s Degree and reduce the time and cost of earning a Bachelor’s Degree

Board of Trustees[edit]

President - Chet Pipkin, Founder, Chairman, President and CEO, Belkin International; Vice President - Dr. Donald Brann, State Trustee of Inglewood Unified School District and the former superintendent of Wiseburn School District; Trustee - Art Lofton, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Sector Vice President, Information Technology Solutions and Chief Information Officer; Trustee - Cheryl Cook, community member; Treasurer - Brian Meath,Principal with Nigro Karlin Segal & Feldstein, LLP; Trustee - Israel Mora, General Manager, LAX Courtyard Marriott; Trustee - Jennifer Morgan, Wiseburn community member, small business owner.

Curriculum & Philosophy[edit]

Project-based learning (PBL) is learn-by-doing curriculum that integrates core subjects with real-life problems to be solved. Teachers work in teams with one another to identify key California state standards and skills that need to be addressed at the grade-level. Then, teachers work backwards to plan their curriculum, striving to create a project that centers on a big idea and a real world connection. Students work in teams to create a final product that demonstrates mastery of content standards and a demonstration of key skills. One of the most important aspects of project-based learning is a public presentation of the work created, as assessment is based on students’ ability to articulate and demonstrate the content and skills learned. For a recent Engineering project, students learned about mechanics and motion, then constructed a Medieval-style Trebuchet to calculate the trajectory of a ball’s travel from its starting point to its ending point represented by a quadratic equation.[4]

Student progress is measured and assessed through traditional tests and quizzes, public presentations of learning, exhibitions, and digital portfolios.

Da Vinci Schools' graduation requirements are aligned with the UC/CSU admission requirements. 98% of the Class of 2014 graduates met the UC and CSU “A-G” requirements for admission; 84% received four-year university offers.

Community Partnerships[edit]

Northrop Grumman Innovation Lab

Da Vinci Schools has strategic partnerships with many corporate, nonprofit and education institutions. Community partners offer students and faculty access to expert knowledge, industry-specific curriculum, internship opportunities, mentoring, teacher training, early college programs, career guidance, volunteer support, direct funding, and much more.

Some of Da Vinci Schools’ partners include: Northrop Grumman, Belkin International, The Boeing Company, Chevron Corporation, Raytheon, SpaceX, Art Center College of Design, Mattel, Gensler, 72andSunny, Karten Design, Project Lead the Way, El Camino College, Antioch University Los Angeles, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Loyola Marymount University, and many more.

In January 2010, Da Vinci Schools opened the Northrop Grumman Innovation Lab, a state-of-the-art media center where students have access to the latest technology to research, design and bring their real-world projects to life.[5]

In April 2010, Chevron Corporation awarded Da Vinci Schools an "Energy for Learning" grant as part of its $1 million investment in California schools to stimulate interest in STEM careers.

In February 2011, The Riordan Foundation awarded Da Vinci Schools a $100,000 grant in order to provide iPad 2s at a 1:1 for each student as a part The Riordan Personalized Digital Learning Initiative.[6]

Early College[edit]

Students enrolled in Da Vinci Schools’ Early College program attend college classes on the Da Vinci campus while simultaneously earning their high school diploma. During the 2014-15 school, Da Vinci Schools offers 21 early college classes, 14 of which are for dual credit/concurrent enrollment through El Camino College and Antioch University Los Angeles.

Work Experience & Internships[edit]

Da Vinci high school students have the opportunity to work unpaid at local businesses and corporations as part of the Real World Learning Program. The goal of the Work Experience Program is to provide students with workplace skills in a real-world environment. Additionally, the program is designed to develop a talent pool of diverse employees to meet the local community’s workforce planning objectives. Work Experience and Internship partners include Belkin, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Kerlan-Jobe, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, DaVita, CXC Simulations, and many more.

Community Service[edit]

Da Vinci students are required to perform a minimum of 25 hours of Community Service each year. Community Service must be as a volunteer and benefit the community at large. Families must also fulfill community service per year through volunteering on-campus, engaging with students off campus doing educational activities, or enrolling in college studies of their own.

College Counseling[edit]

Students and families are guided through the college process, including the financial aid process, via college counseling with on-site counselors and advisory teachers. Starting in 10th grade, students receive additional guidance in testing, financial literacy, and in exploring college options. By the start of the senior year they will be ready to finalize their college lists and focus on the actual applications. Da Vinci seniors are required to apply to a minimum of two colleges. Students begin making college visits in the 9th grade. During the 2010-2011 school year, students toured USC, UCLA, UC San Diego, Pepperdine University, LMU, and The Claremont Colleges.


Every student is enrolled in an Advisory class for the full 4 years of high school that includes students from 9-12 grade. The advisory class is a place where students can bond with each other, get academic support, and have a safe place to share their feelings.


Technology is integrated throughout the day in student performance, classroom instruction, data management, and communication. Da Vinci Schools recently adopted digital math and physics resources that students use both on campus and from home. A web-based student management system provides families a portal to check their child’s progress 24/7.


Seminar classes (similar to electives) are practical, real-world non-core classes that are co-taught by Da Vinci faculty and industry professionals. Some recent seminar classes have included: Architecture and Design, Vehicle Design, Toy Design, Game Theory, Product and Industrial Design, Web Programming, Robotics, Flight School, Aerospace Engineering, Rocketry, Creative Writing, Leadership, Youth and Government, Drama, Yearbook, CrossFit, Yoga, Photography, and many more.

Extracurricular Activities[edit]

Da Vinci Schools offer extracurricular activities, including after-school clubs, intramural sports, and arts. There is also a non-profit Crossfit gym, Crossfit Zen, that offers a free after school exercise program for Da Vinci Science students. [7] This program is funded by a once per year fundraiser, and Da Vinci Science students are creating a documentary that follows its development.[8]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°54′29″N 118°22′34″W / 33.90806°N 118.37611°W / 33.90806; -118.37611