Updated 2018-08-20

Dida Academy

A student-centered community for project-based learning through design and technology.
Danielle Levine executive director
click to see email
(+1) 718-395-7401
823 President Street
Brooklyn, NY  11215
United States


Dida Academy is a school-replacement teen learning center serving ages 11-18. Our name comes from the word “autodidact” (auto-DIDA-ct), which means self-taught. We operate 5 days per week from our transit-accessible location in Brooklyn. We leverage design thinking techniques and agile development tools to challenge young people to fully create their ideas with professional support.

We use a 12:1 student-to-mentor ratio and promote partnerships among teens in their learning. Students are encouraged to explore, build, and reflect on the topics and skills that most interest them. Dida supports families through daily accountability, weekly documentation, and quarterly narratives. Based on the individual student’s future plans, Dida guides teens in building a portfolio for financial independence and personal success.

Classes, workshops, and project facilitation take place Monday-Friday (9am-2:45pm). Our offerings are taught by experts, professionals, and experienced teachers. Classes are developed based on student interest and participation is always optional. Each week we take a field trip to a fun and educational destination in New York City.

SDE Optimizing Conditions

ASDE surveys all SDE communities/programs about how they provide, enhance, or align with each of the Six Optimizing Conditions for young people to succeed in SDE.  Survey answers:
  1. Responsibility – Students manage their own schedule choices and social relationships with a mind for lifelong learning. Tools for accountability, self-organization, and time management are offered to students as needed.
  2. Youth Autonomy – Students explore interests in a least restrictive environment. Weekly field trips are designed to build familiarity and independence with travel around our NYC community. Attendance and arrival times are flexible based on family needs.
  3. Access to Tools and Technology – Students are encouraged to use any personal tech tools of their choosing. Professional-standard software, tools, and online subscriptions are also available at Dida. We do not restrict the use of technology.
  4. Adult Allies – We hold a culture of acceptance for all learners and promote social-emotional understanding. Facilitators help document a student’s learning journey and encourage reflection at milestones. Dida offers quarterly narratives for families (no grades).
  5. Free Age Mixing – Our environment seeks to cultivate relationships among young people ages 11-18. There are no segregated activities. Dida students regularly communicate with local professionals of all ages.
  6. Community – Relationships among students, families and facilitators are based on authentic feedback. Students voice their preferences and opinions in groups (though facilitators may push back to promote healthy skepticism).

If any information about this resource is out of date, please let us know.