Some Links and Resources as Background


NOVA Lab Newsletter 1st Edition 2020: this is the introductory packet that I e-mailed to all parents of students a week or so before class started.  It lays out the philosophical and pedagogical rationale for the class as well as sets a timeline for the work we will do together.  If you are interested in the first iteration of this class in 2016-2017–You can read more about that here.


Of course, it might be easier to watch some videos or listen to podcasts to get a sense for what the class might be like.  For that I recommend the following:

1)  Here’s one from Natalie Nixon, a Prof at Phila. University, on what’s necessary to thrive in the coming years.  You’ll be developing these skill sets as you work through projects in Nova Lab.

2)  Take a look at my YouTube playlist about Design Lab

3)  Design & Thinking Documentary.  (Not super exciting, but thorough.)

4) The Shopping Cart— A look at design thinking & innovation in action through one project


Our Library Redesign work with Students and Teachers at MS East from 2016IMG_3608

Why would you even consider such a class?  Three drivers:  Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose


Sample Blogs from 2016 class

Irina Koleva

Jordan Wenning

Katie DeRosa

What Might the Class be Like in Practice?


No doubt you’d like to know how this class works and why it’s necessary.

For that I offer this website:  Startedupinnovation This is the website of a teacher from Indiana, Don Wettrick.  I’ve followed him for several years, skyped with him numerous times, and used Skype to bring him and his students into my classroom.  The class is, in large part, modeled on his work.

Here’s a great overview of Don’s work and the mindset behind it.  It’ll take you a 1/2 hour or so, but if you’re interested in actually doing something different, in changing school so that it taps into your interests and the things you want to learn…if you want to DO SOMETHING that benefits not only you but a wider community, please watch this.

Finally, here is Don’s Youtube channel where he posts with his students most every day.  Check out some of the videos and just listen to what these students are DOING!


Design Thinking for College Admissions

I received the letter below from one of the counselors at my HS today.  As a recap, I piloted a Design Thinking and Open Source Learning class last year for 13 students.  For several reasons it didn’t fill up enough this year, but with the endorsement below, I’m hoping to be off and running like nobody’s business next year.

The course referenced in the student letter below was a hybrid between a course based in design thinking and one that was based on the work of Don Wettrick and his Innovation and Open-Source learning course at Noblesville HS.

The upshot of the letter?  The student gets into a select class in design thinking for engineers at Syracuse BECAUSE she had a class in Design Thinking in HS.


Dear Mrs.___,

HELLO THERE!!! How are you? I’m so sorry I didn’t email you sooner, college has been so extremely busy, and I have way less time than I thought I would. Classes just started yesterday, and it’s overwhelming, but I am so ready for the next four years, and honestly, that’s thanks to PVHS for preparing me. 🙂

I remember coming into your office all the time last year panicking, but I can honestly say I made the right choice. I live in the engineering dorm at Syracuse, and my whole hall became really good friends right away (which for some reason hasn’t happened in other halls). As I spend more time with these kids and get to know them, I’m realizing how similar we all are, and all my doubts about whether I picked the best school for me and very quickly fading away. I wish I could have told myself last year to just CALM DOWN, because everything truly does work out in the end. XD

In addition to the residence halls, the college itself is really really cool too. It’s much more progressive than I imagined it, and for the most part, they’re really good at addressing certain situations appropriately and with grace. Everyone feels really safe here, and I’m so grateful for that.

And I’m not sure if you remember, but I was freaking out last year because my design thinking class dropped my GPA (it was prep) and I didn’t think I’d get a lot of scholarships. I want to tell you this because I feel like a lot of incoming seniors NEED to hear this, so if you could please please please tell them about my experience, I honestly think it might help them decide what electives to take.

I am majoring in chemical engineering. The scholarship that I got at Syracuse is called the Engineering and Computer Science Leadership Scholars Program. When I got into the program, I was required to take this class called ECS 100 Seminar…I had no clue what it was, but when I showed up for the class I found out that it’s a new program they’re trying out, and it is COMPLETELY DESIGN THINKING BASED. We all need to find a problem in society, and as future engineers, design some sort of solution. We go through the entire design process and constantly revise. At the end of the semester, we present a prototype and a presentation to the class. We don’t get homework, and class time is devoted to working on the project. The class isn’t graded on a grade level…you basically get an A based on how well you work as a group, attendance, and participation. They want us to utilize all our resources and come up with creative and innovative solutions on our own, and without a real template. In addition to this kind of exposure, we get a lot of money, a paid research position, and invitation to the honors program, and priority consideration for study abroad, among other benefits. It is SUPER cool, and I will definitely let you know how it goes. It’s amazing to me that a college is trying this hard to change with the times, and I’m really glad to go to a school that does this.

HOWEVER, I honestly think part of the reason I got into this program is because I took design thinking.

I was talking to the admissions director because they handpicked the recipients, and they told me that the fact that I had experience taking this type of class really stood out because although engineering students need to know about the design process, a lot of them just take math and science classes and aren’t well-rounded. I REALLY wish someone had told me this, but if someone ever asks about it, here’s a first-hand experience 😉

Thank you for everything you’ve helped me with for the last four years, and I REALLY look forward to college and keeping in touch with you!

Header Photo– R. Buckminster Fuller holds up a tensegrity sphere, April 18, 1979. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)