Quest, a signature Nueva program in the Upper School, is a journey of self-discovery, perseverance, and growth as students explore their own paths to purpose. Project topics range from engineering, fashion, and design to community outreach and education to audio and video production, politics, and activism. Students spend at least 40 hours on their Quest projects, and the journey traditionally culminates in the Quest Expo.
“One of the reasons I was so interested in joining Nueva’s community is because of Quest,” Quest co-director Angi Chau said. “It’s an opportunity for students to learn how to learn without an adult telling them how and what they need to learn.”
“To select their projects, we ask students ‘Is there a chance for spectacular failure? If so, then you’ve got a Quest!’” Quest co-Director John Feland said. “It’s a chance for students to take risks and reach out to experts who know more on their topic than they do.”
This year, all routines have been thoroughly disrupted and, like Nueva students on their Quest, Angi and John had an opportunity to innovate how to celebrate Quest and engage the broader community in the magic students created.
The result was Quest Week, a week where members of the Nueva community had the chance to browse and engage with the Quest projects of all Upper School students. Quest Week included a website; multiple Quest livestreams on QTV, where students shared their Quest journeys; and a Quest app, where users could browse videos and ask questions of our students, as they would during an in-person expo.
In thinking through what Quest Expo would look like, given the limitations caused by COVID-19, Angi and John asked themselves, “What purpose does the Expo serve? How might we design the Expo when we aren’t limited in space and time in the same way?”
John added, “We realized that we could meet the same goals but with different channels of engagement. The app, comments section, and Quest TV all help us meet these goals so that students and the greater Nueva community can celebrate and interact with the projects in asynchronous ways.”
Sophomores Joshua Y. and Humza R. worked together on their Quest project, an app they developed called Votr.
While the new format posed some challenges for them, it also provided them with additional opportunities for exploration. “Working remotely was definitely challenging, especially since we were working on a group quest,” they said. “Communication was a big challenge. However, working at home also had some benefits. With the extra time, we were able to push ourselves and add new content to our app that we don’t think would have made it in if the Quest Expo had been in April. The extra time allowed us to bring our design to the next level.”
Their app (their mock-up can be seen here) allows users to sort through election candidates and issues to stay informed. It also provides information about how to be civically engaged.
“We started this Quest project with an idea but very little experience and exposure to both the design and creation of a mobile app,” Joshua and Humza said. “We did a lot of outside research, looking into different platforms and languages that aided our process. Eventually, we decided to attend multiple hackathons, where we experimented with different platforms and frameworks and talked to professionals, who helped us with the design and creation of Votr. Overall, we’re really proud of how we were able to go from having little to no experience with designing and creating an app to talking with campaign managers, designers, and developers and eventually creating something we think can truly be helpful down the road.”
“I started my Quest this year thinking, ‘I’m going to write a novel,’” junior Abigail P. shared in her video. After taking viewers through her writing process and the research she did to develop her characters and her plot, she said, “In mid-January, I decided to expand my Quest to just be about creative writing. I wrote more than 30 poems, many of which are on my Quest blog. I also wrote several short stories, and even edited stories I wrote in tenth, ninth and eighth grade.”
Quest also offers teacher fellowships for faculty to engage in their own projects. These fellows then become Quest coaches for students, as they understand firsthand what the experience is like for students.
“A big part of why I did Quest is because I believe strongly in never asking students to do something I wouldn't do or be capable of doing,” shared Journalism and Yearbook teacher LiAnn Yim. “What I’ll always remember about this experience are times I was in class and suddenly exclaimed, ‘Oh my god, my Quest reflection is due!’ and students would laugh and say, ‘Exactly LiAnn, now you know what we are going through.’ I’m glad that I was able to experience a little bit of what they undertake.”
This new format has proven so successful that parts of it will potentially be included in future expos.
“The app is where it’s at,” John said. “Having students submit videos gave them a visible way to tell their story, and now we have them recorded. I envision sharing these videos with our freshmen next year to show them what Quest looks like.
Angi added, “I know some students are sending their videos to family who don’t live in the Bay Area. The ability to increase breadth and depth with students has been overwhelming.”