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Life Academies

Pineland Learning Center students are empowered to become 21st century lifelong learners.

Pineland Learning Center (PLC) recently presented awards to the three student teams winning the premiere Media Academy competition in the culminating showcase event.

In its inaugural year, the academies consist of three six-week project-based units, each built around contemporary life skills. The challenging programs this year included Basic Culinary Skills, Money and Entrepreneurship, and Media and Technology. The goal of the innovative academies is to empower students to become 21st century lifelong learners through collaboration and ingenuity.

“The Academies allowed staff to facilitate the students’ natural capacity for creativity through teamwork and empowered them by showing them their potential to positively influence the world around them through a structure emphasizing collaboration,” said English Language Arts teacher Joseph Kratzer. “The Pineland family was very successful in reaching the high goals we set for the program.”

PLC is recognized as an area leader in teaching and nurturing students with developmental disabilities in a structured, safe, and supportive environment in partnership with caregivers, sending districts, and the community.

The Culinary Academy operated like the popular television program Top Chef.The winning creation, by the senior class, was Senior Sweets—red velvet Oreo cupcakes topped with Oreo butter cream icing and caramelized bacon Oreo. (As a special challenge, late in the competition, Principal Darwyn Minor chose bacon as the required mystery ingredient.)

The Money Academy, also borrowing from iconic television, was structured like Shark Tank. The winning team made a ”Sneak It” prototype—a portable reusable sneaker cleaner in the size and shape of a glue stick, which can be clipped on a backpack or belt hook.

“The class started with brainstorming daily problems and then focusing on one,” said Money Academy leader and math teacher Douglas Bellini. “After identifying a target audience and attributes needed in the product, the teams built prototypes and designed the packaging—it was a great experience in the process of entrepreneurship.”

In the Media and Technology Academy, students created and starred in short films to represent PLC at its finest, which will be shown to incoming students at orientation.

The winning team, led by teacher Heather Griffiths, produced “PLC Incentive Program,” describing and illustrating the school’s positive behavioral intervention system focused on social and emotional needs. The group’s video is posted on at:

Exploratory enrichment in art, music, and physical fitness and wellness were an integral part of each academy and allowed students with special skills to contribute their personal expertise.

Panels composed of students, teachers, parents, and community members judged each showcase and selected the winners.

Pineland Learning Center opened in 1980 and currently serves 150 students ages five to 21 at its 12-acre campus in Vineland. Students come from 40+ sending districts in southern New Jersey. PLC also has a curriculum extension campus in Carmel, NJ.

The school seeks to educate and empower students in a structured, safe, and supportive environment through a cooperative partnership with caregivers, sending districts, and the community.

To learn more about Pineland Learning Center, visit