October Update

Dimensions Collaborative School

A Message From the Director

Dear Parents,

Happy Fall and welcome to our October Newsletter. Our theme for October (Learning Period 2) is Self-Directed Learning in a Personalized Environment.

Self-directed learning challenges the conventional notion of education by inverting the process from being more teacher-centered to student-centered whereby the student is the active player who drives her own learning while adults act as facilitators, mentors, subject-matter experts and family liaisons, ensuring that each learner has the resources and support needed to succeed. In his book, Free To Learn, Boston College psychology professor and self-directed education advocate, Dr. Peter Gray, writes: “Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education. When they are provided the freedom and means to pursue their own interests in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges.”

Self-Directed learning represents a major shift in education moving the focus from a teacher-directed approach to a student-centered approach. Click here to get a brief overview on student-centered education.

Also, if you were unable to attend the MathMatters Parent Workshop, I encourage to view Teaching Without Words a Tedx Talk with Matthew Peterson, the founder of ST Math. This Tedx Talk will give you an overview of the program and research that supports ST Math. Click here to view Tedx Talk.

To get started with ST Math please click here to see a brief tutorial. We also have other resources available through the website Parent Portal.

This MathMatters Initiative is designed to support self-directed learning by facilitating a math resource that’s user friendly, engaging, can be accessed anytime, anywhere. More importantly, using ST Math will help students acquire the skills and knowledge needed to be able to drive their own education.

Please do not hesitate to contact your EF if you should have any questions.

Tony Drown

School Director


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The Broadway Learning Center has been bustling with new and returning students. Our days have been filled to the brim with learning, getting to know each other, building new relationships, soaking up these warm days and taking a weekly “road trip” with Mrs. Drown exploring our 50 states! Students have been engaged in puzzles, computer activities, board games, card games and lots of hands on projects. They have proudly been singing and learning the history behind the creator and song of, “This Land is Your Land.”

The Montiel Learning Center has started the year off with some fun and engaging events! We had our welcome back ice cream social which included meeting teachers, a fun game of get to know your neighbor bingo, and eating some yummy ice cream. Our Adventure club had a lot of fun ice skating, a park day which included basketball, volleyball, frisbee, making new friends and reacquainting with others. We also have our new amazing UN/Global Education Club that students are enjoying. The teachers and staff have really enjoyed getting to know your student’s personalities and talents. Students have also made some wonderful friends while working with their peers on class projects.

Please be sure to visit our website for updates:



Our Discovery Days are off to a great start.

Garden Science:

Students receive firsthand experience in garden-based education. Learn about nutrition, cooking with locally grown, organic produce. Learn to plant, care for gardens, harvest, and compost all in a beautiful outdoor garden setting.

STEAM - Science, Technology, Art and Math are explored through games, artist studies and hands-on activities in an outdoor setting.

Humanities - Language Arts, History and reading are explored through games, author studies, reading buddies and hands-on activities in an outdoor setting.

Please be sure to visit our website for updates:



Dimensions Central San Diego VEX Robotics team participated in a tournament on October 12th at Poway High School. Congratulations to the team for receiving the Safety Award 2019. Thank you to instructor Tanya Lake for her guidance and support.

A special thank you to SDCOE Board Member Guadalupe González for visiting with staff and students at our Mission Valley Learning Center this month. Board Member González especially enjoyed spending time with our "great ambassadors for Dimensions."

Please be sure to visit our website for updates:


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The Empowered Student

You can have personalized learning that is not self-directed, and you can have self-directed learning without personalization. Step into any school, read any education article, or watch another TED talk…everyone preaches personalized learning. Ask five “experts” to define personalized learning, however, and you will get five or more definitions. Even the definition of personalized learning is personalized.

Self-directed learning is the up and coming trend. By giving the student a packet or project to complete at his own pace, one has technically offered a self-directed model of learning. Self-directed personalized learning, on the other hand, is a whole new ballgame. Like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, by merging two good things together, you get two treats in one. You have…the empowered student.

Our society is suffering from a large population of college graduates with student loans and no real-world experience, thus limiting them to a small box of careers from which to choose. Their specialized training leaves them virtually hog-tied when approached with a problem outside the textbook. They find themselves now qualified to do a job that has been outsourced or automated. Many of the jobs that will be available to our students don’t even exist yet. As such, it is important for our youth to learn a wide range of skills which can be applied in a multitude of situations. Students with skills in self-directed and personalized learning may even create one of those new careers. (See graphic at bottom for skills required in current workforce).

To shift education from the top-down model of previous centuries, adults must view their role as facilitators, rather than teachers, and recognize that learning occurs most easily and naturally when students find meaning and are given autonomy and time and support for mastery.

By enrolling your child in an Element school, you have chosen to take an active role in the day to day monitoring of your child’s academic growth and support his/her agency in learning. You understand the need to remove barriers to learning and build skills beyond knowledge such as compassion, self-reliance, co-existence, ambition, and discipline. Learning happens everywhere and all the time. As such, it is important to remember everyday life is a classroom for learning all subject areas. Take a moment to reflect on the “classroom” in which your child is learning. In what ways do you support learner agency on a daily basis?

Promoting self-directed learning in a personalized learning environment may require of you to change ingrained habits or beliefs from your past. The first thing you need to do is trust yourself. Have confidence in your ability to bring out the best in your child. The second thing to do is be patient. It won’t happen overnight, and every child responds and progresses differently.

Compare your learning styles profile with your child. Know the aspects of your child you should be celebrating and the differences you need to keep in mind when working together.

Help your child set goals; be realistic.

Remember the reasons you chose this model of learning. Make sure your personalized program reflects that. (i.e. if your child was bored with textbook learning, don’t give him a watered-down version of the same approach).

Create a guide/plan for yourself. That is not to say it can’t change but have a destination and a plan for how to get there.

If you are feeling a need for more connection between you, your EF, and/or your child then take the initiative to make it happen. Be sure to include your child in conversations about his/her learning plan (at an age-appropriate level, of course).

Note: We are in the process of compiling an Element Guide to the Personalized Approach for Student Agency which includes strategies for making all the world a classroom and preparing a learning rich environment filled with meaningful experiences. This link will take you to a survey to collect your ideas. Please take a moment to complete the survey. Our goal is to collect a wide range of ideas, so that the Guide is a robust tool for families. At the end of the month, we will compile everyone’s suggestions and “publish” it for all to use.

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One of the many unique qualities of Dimensions Collaborative School (DCS) is the wide range of educational resources available. We understand that while the square root of 25 is 5, there are a variety of ways in which this can be taught, and each student has a way in which they learn information best. While there are a plethora of resources available on the internet (i.e. video lesson like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTL_bNvXJ9s or websites such as https://www.homeschoolmath.net/worksheets/square-roots.php), DCS provides texts, manipulatives, games, kits, online curriculum, etc. to support student learning in accordance with their learning styles (and parent support needs). Our inventory is in constant flux as a result of our continual reflection on the most economical, effective, and popular materials based on research and best practices in education, as well as student and parent feedback.

Please excuse our mess…The downside to such an extensive inventory is the ability to keep it neat, organized, and user-friendly. This is a priority for us this year, and we appreciate your input as we tidy things up.

Please share your experiences with the Resource Library located on our website https://bit.ly/2VIOvj0 with your Educational Facilitator (EF) to help us make this a useful tool for you.

The Counseling Corner with Audrey Kirk

Please be sure to read The Counseling Corner newsletter by Audrey Kirk.

Audrey Kirk has been with Element Education as the DCS Academic Counselor since 2014. She is originally from Golden, Colorado but now lives in San Diego with her husband, Owen, and two sons, Miles & Crosby. Audrey holds a Master of Arts degree in Counseling with a School Counseling specialization and a Pupil Personnel Services credential from the University of San Diego, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Colorado - Boulder.

Audrey could be reached at akirk@myelement.org

Click Here to Read The Counseling Corner

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The Benefits Of Physical Education As It Pertains to Learning

Physical activity and fitness are not only good for your physical health, but for academic, social, and emotional health as well. Dr. John J. Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, writes that exercise improves learning on three levels: "First, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus." In short, not only does exercise help the brain get ready to learn, it makes retaining information easier.

California Education Code requires students receive instruction with an emphasis on physical activities conducive to health and vigor of body and mind, for at least 200 minutes each 10 schooldays for grades 1-6 and 400 minutes each 10 schooldays for grades 7-8. High school students must complete two years of physical education with one of those years focused on skills and assessment in a wide variety of physical activities. Dimensions Collaborative partners with a wide range of vendor instructors who provide specialized support in the eight areas of physical education: Effects of physical activity upon dynamic health, mechanics of body movement, aquatics, gymnastics and tumbling, individual and dual sports, rhythms and dance, team sports, and combatives. In addition, school-wide activities are offered to expose students to new and deeper experiences. Engaging students in a wide range of physical activities provides a broader base of knowledge, skill, experience, and insight.

To better understand the science behind the benefits of physical activity as it pertains to learning, watch this five-minute video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTL_bNvXJ9s

Student Spotlight

Tristan Sarap Schmitt is an 11th grader who has been with Dimensions Collaborative School for two years, having previously attended our sister school, Community Montessori. His passion is tennis, a sport he’s been playing since he was old enough to pick up a racket. He rises early to train before attending learning center classes, which are followed by several more hours of afternoon practice. The flexibility of his personalized learning plan with DCS has allowed him to maintain this rigorous schedule as well as to compete several times a year in tournaments around the country.

Recently, Tristan had the honor of an invitation to a two-week, all-expense-paid tennis camp held by American Champions Tennis, an organization co-founded by tennis legend Jimmy Connors, whose mission is to raise the level of tennis play by American men on the world stage. As one of just six young men at the camp, held at La Costa Resort, Tristan was personally coached by Connors every day. What a wonderful experience!

Discover How Your Child Engages: A Learning Styles Interactive Workshop

Come discover how your child engages best at one of our Learning Styles Interactive Workshops. Learn how to nurture agency in your child, fostering a true self-directed learning opportunity. We will explore the five aspects of the Learning Styles Portrait and how to apply to your family.

Join us for this hands-on opportunity to “see” your family in a new way, opening doors to help your child discover his/her element and learning path.

North San Diego

November 5th

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Montiel Learning Center

1441 Montiel Road, #145

Escondido, CA 92026


Central San Diego

November 12th

6:00-8:00 pm

Mission Valley Learning Center

4646 Mission Gorge Place

San Diego, CA 92120



Email Trish Ruppel


(951) 217-2846


For ParentSquare Questions, Please Contact Susan Michaels at smichaels.dimensions.org

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The EdTech Connection with Diane Duncan

Today our children have an incredible opportunity to learn, create and communicate through the use of technology. It is important that parents are confident in their understanding of digital devices, apps, games, and their ability to help guide their children at every age to ensure a positive experience online. I have found a great resource for parents to use to start the idea of being a good digital citizen with your students. I hope you find this resource a useful tool.


Positive Discipline: Creating Respectful Relationships in Homes and Schools

Dimensions’ philosophy of personalized, self-directed learning aligns with POSITIVE DISCIPLINE (“PD” - www.positivediscipline.com), the world-renowned model for child guidance, and classroom and organizational leadership. Element Education has adopted the model to help students learn the social-emotional skills they need to develop “agency,” using their personal power to self-assess, self-motivate, self-advocate, self-regulate and self-reflect.

Agency. People who have agency are responsible, resourceful and resilient. These qualities develop in relationships of mutual respect, where both young people and adults feel encouraged, and feel a sense of belonging (connection, love), and significance (capability through the development of mastery, autonomy and purpose).

Self-discipline. Positive Discipline principles and tools promote self-discipline: doing the right thing when no one is watching, forcing or bribing. When adults collaborate together with children vs. “doing to or for” them, they are more likely to feel connected, respected, empowered, encouraged and safe, key ingredients for success in school and life, and for meaningful contribution.

The Research. Neuroscientific research tells us that children are "hardwired" from birth to connect with others, and that children who feel connected to their family, school and community are less likely to demonstrate misbehaviors. Family environment factors have been found to account for more of the variance in student achievement than curricular or instructional variables. (Good, T. & Brophy, J. (1986). School Effects. In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.), The Handbook of Research on Teaching (3rd Edition), 570-604. New York: MacMillan

Research also shows that when students possess social-emotional competencies, higher academic achievement results (CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (https://casel.org/research/). The Positive Discipline model equips students and adults with the tools and opportunities to practice developing these skills.

Want more information about PD Resources?

Contact your EF. Attend one of our parenting series offered in Learning Centers. The Resource Center at Montiel Rd. in Escondido has PD books and other materials. The Learning Centers also have materials on hand for review.

I am happy to share more information with you about this effective model.

Lois Ingber, LCSW

Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer