A process for creative problem-solving, Design Thinking is a pillar of Nueva's learning approach. It draws on the humanities for empathy and ethnography; the arts and engineering for idea generation and invention; and the sciences for hypothesis creation, prototyping, testing, and reflection. Students develop the mindset to identify situations where they can better the world, and Design Thinking gives them the tools and resolve to take action.



Nueva partnered with IDEO and Stanford’s d.School to develop the first Design Thinking program and Innovation Lab (I-Lab) specifically for PreK–12 education. Students engage in Design Thinking across the curriculum daily — in our two dedicated I-Labs and in their classrooms.


design thinking

Students engage with Design Thinking principles on a daily basis across the curriculum, both in the dedicated I-Labs and in their classrooms. Design Thinking and engineering are taught, applied, and explored through project-based learning, integrated projects that require real-world problem solving, and independent exploration.

By asking "What do we need next?", 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.

The immersion in Design Thinking and engineering at Nueva begins in PreK, and students build on their skills throughout their years in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. 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.

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 in presentations at national conferences.

Kim Saxe

Founding Director of the Innovation Lab

“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.”

Design Thinking in Nueva News

GoBabyGo! Students Engineer Vehicles to Mobilize Toddlers

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.

Design Thinking Inspiration: A Field Trip to Stanford’s d.school

Nothing brings Design Thinking principles to life like seeing them in action at the birthplace of Design Thinking, Stanford’s d.school. Nueva’s 5th graders got the chance to do just that on their field trip last week.

This is a special experience for Nueva students: our first Innovation Lab (I-Lab) in Hillsborough was developed in collaboration with Stanford’s d.school team, and from there we launched our Design Thinking curriculum back in 2007.

Wind Turbines Generate Electric Lessons

After more than five months of work that originated long before the school year even began, students in Nueva’s grade 7 are putting the finishing touches on a project that represents the culmination of many years of design thinking experiences.

Middle School Girls “Drive for a Difference”

Using bright, cheerful, easy-to-use materials that they designed, Jenna Leonardo and Katie Kirsch, co-founders of Girls Driving for a Difference, inspired and guided participants to identify their strengths and abilities, discover their leadership styles and craft their own personal mission statements for changing the world.