It started with a simple question: “If we—the first grade class of Clever Cheetah Cubs—were to redesign our classroom library, what would it look like?” To answer this question, students in Emily Mitchell and Alexandra Holterman’s class embarked on a design thinking project, which culminated in a fully redesigned classroom library.
The Innovation Labs (or I-Labs) are spaces on both campuses in which students are able to play, design, prototype, and make. The I-Labs are designed to enable every student to pursue a plethora of interests, and to foster Design Thinking practices in doing so. Students have access to tools, teachers, and resources, enabling them to become content creators and problem solvers.
In a given week, 72% of the student body spends time in the I-Lab.
The I-Lab team nurtures Nueva’s comprehensive PreK–12 Design Thinking program, which embraces engineering and computer science to prepare students for an open-ended and rapidly changing future. Nueva I-Lab engineers start working with students as early as age five and continue through to their high school graduation. This allows the facilitation of long-term growth and development in students through their entire childhood and adolescence.
Mentored Collaborative Environment
An important measure of an education is a student’s ability and willingness to learn, grow, and create outside of traditional school structures. In order to truly support and assess this eventual goal, we must take a step back and give students a choice of where and how to spend their time. Students have the opportunity to utilize the I-Lab outside of class time, whether during lunch or after school.
Many students take this time to pursue personal interests and to explore new tools, materials, and concepts. Others opt to form groups and clubs, using the I-Lab space to advance project work in a collaborative and supportive environment.
Learning Through Play
Of course, a large part of this unstructured access is the encouragement and support of play. Whether students are working on developing a transparent toaster, or just curious about what will happen if they glue two things together, the I-Lab team is ready to support them. Often what begins as a carefree exploration will develop into an in-depth endeavor, from which students will develop a more complete understanding. We seek to cultivate an environment in which students are able to reap the benefits of play, inquiry, and discovery.
Almost one year since the Space Academy lower and middle school elective class launched Nueva’s first venture into space, the students finally have the results of a hot air pattern experiment they tested in microgravity.
At Nueva, when students see a problem or a need, they invent a solution. Now in its second year, Invention Studio began as an outgrowth of I-Lab teacher Connie Liu's Design Engineering for Social Good course. It allows students to use design thinking and engineering skills to create empathy-based solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing our society today. Invention Studio is Nueva pedagogy at its best — student-centered learning that gives students the opportunity to use both design thinking and social-emotional learning skills in a real-life setting, to solve real-world issues.
Nueva middle school students learn by caring in Christine Braun's robotics class. In December 2017, Chris, the shop manager & I-Lab engineer, met with the Los Angeles chapter of GoBabyGo! — a University of Delaware-based program dedicated to mobilizing young children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder of movement, muscle tone, and posture affecting more than 200,000 children each year, and there is no known cure. Chris brought her inspiration to Nueva and recently led a team of middle school students in the design, construction, and delivery of the school’s first car to a GoBabyGo! family.
Nueva’s Design Thinking Program teaches students to solve problems through empathic design — that is, solving problems with a user in mind — and prototyping and iterating to discover viable solutions. Design Thinking is one of the pillars of the Nueva experience, and the I-Lab is the place where students come to build their creative confidence, practice the Design Thinking process, and learn to manifest their ideas into meaningful world change.
On October 19 and 20, more than 1,200 teachers, parents, and practitioners from public, charter, and independent schools from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Johannesburg, South Africa, gathered for the 2017 Innovative Learning Conference. More than 140 international thought leaders and local experts shared promising practices, inspiring stories, and cutting-edge research across an array of topics including creative and critical thinking, design thinking, wellness, computer science, and social-emotional learning, to name just a few.
During the second weekend in October, over 40 students in grades 3–8 gathered on the Hillsborough campus to take part in the first Nueva Weekend event of the year.
For the second year, Nueva is partnering with Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development in hosting their Accelerated Weekend Experience (AWE).
This summer, Marc Y. traveled to China where he visited remote towns and village schools to listen to children’s hearts to detect murmurs. Along with several volunteer interns, he furthered the efforts of Dr. Robert Detrano and the China California Heart Watch (China Cal), a non-profit that operates out of UC Irvine to provide free heart care to denizens of China’s poor and polluted Yunnan Province.
Nueva’s partnership with Peninsula Bridge’s After School Program is the best kind: mutually beneficial and aligned with the missions and values of both partners.