Misconceptions and Challenges

October 13, 2020

Freestyle’s program is a valuable addition to the MVLA School District and not the rumored “easy way out” of course work for high school students.

Even with Freestyle’s hands-on and flexible method of learning, the program is stringent and requires dedication as well as independence.

“[People] have this outside observance of Freestyle as being pretty easy,” Florendo noted. “But once you get here, you realize, ‘Oh, this is pretty rigorous.’”

Design student junior Gaya Lesser added that Freestyle might even be more work than what she experienced in her freshman and sophomore years at Los Altos High School combined.

“There isn’t anyone regularly checking that you have your work done before the due date,” Gaya said. “You just have to learn time management or you’ll get behind really fast. However, it’s easier to get the work done since I’m actually interested in it.”

An additional challenge in the Freestyle curriculum is the immense learning curve that comes with using the complicated equipment students are expected to master, along with the introduction of a more abstract approach to learning.

“We’re asking students to learn a lot of sophisticated concepts and technology,” Florendo said. “We ask first-year juniors to think abstractly and conceptually, and it’s really hard for them.”

As so many of the learning challenges come from growing accustomed to this advanced technology, working from home due to COVID-19 has only added extra difficulties. To ensure a functional work environment for all of its students, a lot of money went into providing everyone with drawing tablets.

While Freestyle provides the necessary tools for students to complete their courses at home, staff members have cut the curriculum down due to fewer instructional hours with everyone off-campus.

As Freestyle’s record shows, students are consistently dedicated to getting the most out of their time with the program. With this pattern of determination, these decreased hours haven’t stopped them from adapting and later flourishing in the demanding, novel environment.

“After a while, they get used to thinking creatively and then move on to develop some pretty cool stuff by the end of their junior year,” Florendo said. “By their senior year, they’re flying and developing deep thinking concepts.”

The individual documentary project, assigned to students for the last 15 years, gives students the opportunity to demonstrate this immense growth, bringing out the most genuine parts of every individual. Despite recurring requirements, Florendo notes how each year brings an entirely new perspective to the community.

“People still find many untold stories in the community that are really unique; it’s been quite interesting for me to learn about all these different people and places,” Florendo said.

While some specific projects, such as the documentary assignment, have remained consistent over the years, Freestyle is known to be an ever-changing program.

“There’s not been a single year that’s been the same as the previous one,” Florendo said. “We’re constantly tweaking [our program] and we keep adapting because we have to. In the 21st century, technology changes pretty fast, as well as student ideas.”

This optimistic outlook is just a testament to the ability of the academy to persevere through all of the struggles of distance learning and beyond, just as they’ve done for nearly a decade and a half.

“Nothing is ever the same,” Florendo said. “We expect things to change and we welcome it so that our program can always become a little better.”

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