Meet the Class and Teacher: Resources

What’s this class about?

Well, it is an attempt to answer the question, “What would a class look like if it focused on helping students develop purpose, a healthy sense of self, and a vision for their lives?…If learning were driven by the search for meaning rather than mandate?”  We are so busy in schools getting students to comply with rules and consume curricula stuffed with forgettable often irrelevant facts that most students never have a chance to pursue purposeful, meaningful learning.

So in essence, this is a class dedicated to purpose, meaning, and the nurturing of human flourishing.

Purpose is at the core of this class, as evidenced by our use of Project Wayfinder–A purpose-based learning curriculum out of Stanford.  (Visit the site. I implore you!  I cannot say enough about what they’ve created…but here are four blog posts where I’ve tried.)

So a good part of this class is about wayfinding–using our own knowledge and sense of the world to create paths through the often turbulent waters of life.  But if you need something more concrete, you received the opening newsletter via e-mail in late August.  (Please feel free to add comments and questions to this document.)

Here’s my road map, at least as I saw it in year 1, week 2:

road map
Big thanks to Don Wettrick and his work, especially the book, Pure Genius

We’re taking this trip because the world is changing faster than we’ve been able to keep up. Our work in NOVA Lab is to provide the space and the Deep Time to allow students to think, create, and establish themselves as purposeful learners whose work has an impact not only on them personally, but on larger communities.

There are a series of questions driving us in this class.  First, the operating system for the 21st century:

Who am I?  Who are we?  What matters to me?  What am I going to do about it?

But perhaps the two most important questions driving us are these:

Why are things the way they are...

Here is the one-page overview that breaks down my argument for the necessity of such a class and how the learning here is different.

But, unlike many classes, WE HAVE A MANIFESTO!!!  (Ok, so it’s a syllabus…or not.)

Essentially, NOVA Lab is a space for “inspiration, aspiration, respiration, and creation” to help guide students to Deeper Learning through Deep Time and IDEAS (see image below–please note that’s my own work…somewhat proprietary in nature as I’m working on building it out with a consulting group I’m starting a partnership with).

I.D.E.A.S. Deeper Learning Design

In the end, I want to thank the parents, the district, and, most of all, the students.  That they’ve elected to enter this space that we shaped (and reshape) for them and are willing to do something different with their education is a huge investment (see this video).  I promise that with work and direction, they will receive a large return, and they will contribute to a legacy–this class– that will change the education of hundreds of students in the future and in doing so, will make the world a better place.

Sample Projects from Year 1:

Make it 100–HS Senior Voter Registration Drive. (Check out their video here.)

Living Now–Getting our peers off the screens and into the natural world. (YouTube Link)

Miles Catenza–Several projects to follow here.

Jane Huston–Two years into the program and going strong.

Project Zero–Composting at PVHS. (Initial Presentation).  (Final Presentation)

Video from Year 2:

Written, Directed, Produced, and Edited by Johnathan Cherry:  What is NOVA Lab?

Help us out!!!!

Can you offer expertise or time to mentor students?  Or maybe  come into the class to speak to us about start-ups, business, or things like project management?

Please sign-up on the google doc here and e-mail me at  Thank you

Information about Mr. Heidt:

I’m a teacher with 28 years in Middle, College, and High School Classrooms who has found his way to championing Design Thinking, Project Based Learning, and Student Guided Inquiry.

I work with two national design-based learning networks:  Design-ed and The Design Learning Network.

I also ran the national Middle School pilot for The Creativity Hub’s “Extraordinaires Design Studio” product.  We were focused on building empathy to help guide problem finding and solving in middle school students.  (See posts on this activity in the menu bar at my other blog, “Only Connect.”)

I’ve spoken at numerous conferences on Design-Based Learning.  My most recent presentation was on the concepts of industrial time and deep time.  Entitled “Lingering at the Point of Wonder,” it was delivered to the Design Interest Group of the National Arts Educators Association in November of 2020.

I am the Director of Learning for the Philadelphia-Based Educational Design Consultancy, “Form and Faculty,” and I blog there occasionally.  For example…

My Personal blog about Education is called “Only Connect.

I tweet:  @Ed_by_Design and this is my LinkedIn profile.

Currently on hiatus, but still full of a few interesting, if wholly unproduced, videos is — My YouTube Channel

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