"Design Thinking is a collection of techniques and mindsets that enable people to identify underlying needs through empathy, to harness and develop their ability to generate ideas, and to actively seek feedback. By flaring and focusing, people discover a path through complex, difficult problems, which transforms them into fearless and effective Changemakers. Collaboration and a bias towards action help blast through intricate situations, particularly those areas that do not have one right answer; Design Thinking helps people jump into ambiguous challenges with energy and excitement."
- Kim Saxe, Director, Innovation Lab
Design Thinking & Engineering is core to the learning approach at Nueva. It encompasses the empathy and ethnography focus of the humanities, the idea generation and invention of the arts and engineering, and the hypothesis creation, prototyping, testing, and reflection methodology of the sciences. Armed with the mindsets and skills of Design Thinking, students are able to identify situations where they can better the world—and have the personal and collaborative tools and resolve to take action.
Students engage with Design Thinking principles on a daily basis and across the curriculum, both in the dedicated I-Lab and in their classrooms. Design thinking and engineering are taught, applied, and explored through project-based learning, integrated projects that require real work problem solving, and independent exploration.
By asking "What do we need next?" and using the stages on this chart, design thinkers craft a unique process for each particular project. As students become more mindful of the process they have used on previous projects, they build confidence in their ability to successfully navigate open-ended challenges.
Click on the infographic to see a visual depiction of Design Thinking.
The immersion in Design Thinking & Engineering at Nueva begins in pre-K, and students build on their skills throughout their years in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. Students further explore their passions utilizing the Design Thinking process through three exemplary programs: Service & Design Engineering (grades 7–9), Recital Projects (grade 8), and Quest (grades 9–12). Student projects address issues from the local to the global and touch on all disciplines of the curriculum—science, math, engineering, art, humanities, music, and more.
A rite of passage at Nueva, the eighth grade Recital Project was established more than 20 years ago as an opportunity for students to follow a passion of their choosing. Many students continue to pursue the area of interest they explored in their recital project in high school and beyond. One of the most well-known projects belongs to Kiran Sridhar, class of 2011, who developed the idea for his non-profit organization, Waste No Food (www.wastenofood.org), as a Recital project. You can read more about Kiran here.
The Nueva Quest asks upper school students to use the Design Thinking process to identify needs and interests, invent a course of study and/or action, brainstorm around obstacles and issues that arise, and persevere to accomplish the goals they set for themselves. Read about a project by two Upper School students to create a hat that functions like a compass to help Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients with their sense of direction.
Nueva students do not have to wait until 7th grade to begin Design Thinking. You can read about a first-grade project that uses Design Thinking to bring together ideas of community and environmental sustainability, two values at the heart of Nueva.
Nueva partnered with IDEO and Stanford's d.School to develop the first Design Thinking program and Innovation Lab (I-Lab) specifically for PK-12 education. As part of Nueva's mission to share our resources, talents, knowledge, and innovation with the larger gifted and education communities, we offer on-site tours of the I-Labs and share best practices at our Innovative Learning Conference and Design Thinking Institute, as well as present at national conferences.