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

Inspiring Design Thinking during Hillsborough I-Lab's Extended Hours

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.

A speaker motions toward a presentation about mathematical thinking.

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.

Student Alice E. smiles with an exchange student.

Last month, students from Kazakhstan visited the Upper School and took part in a three-day Design Thinking collaboration with their homestay partners. The experience provided an opportunity for a genuine cross-cultural exchange rooted in an authentic and impactful learning experience.