Willmar charter school DREAM Technical Academy expects more than 130 students again in 2nd year

WILLMAR -- DREAM Technical Academy charter school is gearing up for the second year of project-based learning in Willmar. In the public charter school for grades 7-12, students work on projects of their own choosing to meet academic standards def...

Bartlett family
Members of the Bartlett family of Kandiyohi talk about their connection with DREAM Technical Academy in Willmar. One daughter graduated last spring in the school’s first graduating class, and three children will be returning this year. From left are older brother Brad, 20, Anna, 14, and mother Terri. Twins Evie and Wade, 16, also attend the school. The project-based charter school begins its second year Aug. 31. (Rand Middleton | Tribune)

WILLMAR - DREAM Technical Academy charter school is gearing up for the second year of project-based learning in Willmar.
In the public charter school for grades 7-12, students work on projects of their own choosing to meet academic standards defined by the state.
The Willmar school has been approved by the state to have up to 150 students in a building on the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar.
School social worker Tammie Knick said this week that 90 to 100 of last year’s students will be returning for a second year. Two students graduated in the spring.
Last year, it had more than 130 students, and she expects to see that many again when school starts Aug. 31.
Knick said the school will make some changes in its approach for its second year, while sticking with project-based learning.
Parents and students will receive a more structured introduction to project-based learning and school expectations, she said in an email. Also new this year will be the development of an art studio and a small library.
A Bremer Foundation grant will be used to promote students earning college credits in high school.
On Thursday evening, the school was open for tours for prospective students. Many returning students were there, too.
The school provides bare bones wooden desks for students, and they are able to paint them to their liking. At the end of the last school year, the desks were disassembled, and students were either putting together their old desks or working on their new ones this week.
Two friends from Raymond, Jasmine Butler and Belle Brynjulfson, both 16-year-old juniors, said they are ready to start school together.
“It’s a new experience for learning,” Belle said.
“I think this may have a better system to do what I want,” Jasmine added. She went to school online last year but missed out on social interaction. Belle said she had missed her longtime friend at school.
Both girls’ parents thought the school could be a good experience for them, they said.
The Bartlett family of Kandiyohi has made a real commitment to the school.
Dad Gary and mom Terri Bartlett have three children attending the school this year; another graduated last spring. An older son, Brad, 20, said he would have attended the school if it had opened before he graduated.
Gary Bartlett saw an article about the school coming to Willmar. “I was intrigued and looked at the website,” he said.
He talked to his son Wade, who wanted to learn more. Gradually, Rena, the recent graduate; Anna, about to be a freshman; and Evie, Wade’s twin, all wanted to try it. Wade and Evie, 16, will be juniors this year.
“We gave our kids the choice,” Terri Bartlett said. “They’re each choosing to come back this year.”
Ask Anna Bartlett, 14, what she likes about the school, she’ll tell you “everything.”
And anyone who thinks the school goes easy on its students would be wrong, she said.
The students get to do projects that interest them, but they have to work hard and meet deadlines. “It’s not easier,” Terri Bartlett said. “If they don’t work, they don’t earn their credits.”
Other returning students talked about their favorite projects from last year.
For Duncan McCormick, 17, from Pennock, projects that related to his interest in mechanics were at the top of the list for the way they can help lead him closer to a career.
Ashton Labelle, 16, a junior from New London, parted out an old Ford Trailblazer last year.
Miranda Stueckrath, 16, a junior from Willmar, said the most meaningful project for her was a presentation on why people do what’s called slut-shaming - judging women by their appearance and related to victim-blaming. “It mattered to me,” she said.
Her interest in music led Brenna Richter, 16, a junior from Benson, to some of her projects, she said, including her favorite, a demonstration on the neuroscience of music and how different types of music can affect brain waves.
DREAM is part of Technical Academies of Minnesota, which will be opening Choice Technical Academy this fall in Owatonna. Two more schools are planned in the coming years.
Technical Academies of Minnesota is authorized by Innovative Quality Schools, an authorizer approved by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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