Learning From One of the Most Innovative Schools in the Country

By AJ Juliani, 2 comments

“We are a school on an audacious mission. And our ‘why’ drives the teaching and learning here at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (MVPS),” said Bo Adams in a recent interview for the Inside Innovation podcast.

To be honest, I wanted the interview with Bo Adams to go on for much longer. I’ve been watching the work they are doing at MVPS for a long time, and especially the creation of the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation, led by Bo and his team.

I’ve always worked in a public school. I love public school and believe it is our best chance as a country (USA) and every nation to empower the next generation to make the world a better place, and have a great life while doing good work.

I’ve been around folks who have said, “Well that’s a private school, we could never do that!” And some others who only want to focus on public schools and the work they are doing. For me, I want to see what every school and the academic institution is doing for their kids.

For me, I want to see what every school and the academic institution is doing for their kids. Because we can learn from every type of school of what is going to work best for students.

What Makes Mount Vernon Different?

I’ve had the opportunity to work in a number of very innovative and progressive school districts, and currently work in an amazing district that is pushing the boundaries of public education.

MVPS is located in Atlanta, Georgia and has been on the bleeding edge of education for years now. They have been awarded the distinct honor of being an Ashoka Changemaker School, and their students famously worked alongside the Centers for Disease Control. What makes the teaching and learning at MVPS so powerful, however, is the team of people dedicated to living out their mission of inquiry, innovation, and impact.

Here are some highlights of the work Bo Adams shares in the recent podcast, I hope you take a listen, and also hope that Mount Vernon’s approach to learning can inspire you as much as it has inspired me!

Empathy Influences Learning

Design Thinkers Change the World.

Modeled after Stanford University’s Institute of Design, Mount Vernon teaches design thinking, people-centered problem-solving. With an emphasis on collaboration and creativity, students discover, empathize, experiment, and produce solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Innovation Diploma

We’re Not A Class. We’re A Start Up

The Innovation Diploma offers an extraordinary opportunity for high school students to become lead designers and innovators in the community. Students accepted into the program earn an additional program track and certification, and they graduate more than innovation ready.

Now in its fourth year, iDiploma students have already tackled issues and solved problems for a variety of organizations like AT&T, Porsche, the CDC, the city of Sandy Springs, and numerous non-profits.

Interim Term

WORLD TRAVEL, SERVICE LEARNING, & INTERNSHIPS

Each year Upper School students have the opportunity to see the world, expand their thinking, explore personal interests, integrate disciplines, and learn through service.

WHAT IS MVIFI (Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation)?

AN R&D LAB AND TRANSFORMATION DESIGN STUDIO

The Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation is a team of maverick leaders and educational designers who are helping schools transform through people-centered design. MVIFI grew from the thought and action leadership at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and maintains a symbiotic relationship as accelerator and amplifier of the School’s work. Continuously innovating ourselves, MVIFI provides leadership in transformational learning and school redesign in a number of ways. We share thought leadership. We host dynamic learning events. We design innovative educational programs. And we consult with schools and organizations working for their own transformation and innovation.

DEEP DESIGN THINKING

A PRESCHOOL THROUGH 12 APPROACH TO DESIGN THINKING

DEEPdt, developed at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation, provides a phased methodology for design thinking — Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce. And while that may seem linear, it’s actually messier than that – which is part of what makes it fun and interesting. The phases — or modes — help a design thinker embrace the messiness and leverage a system for honing in on the roots of a problem and meeting the needs of the user(s).

In 2014, a team of MVIFI designers embarked on a design challenge to scale the DEEP methodology into tools for design thinkers to use. Inspired by IDEO and Stanford’s d.school, the DEEPdt Playbook has been used all over the country in various industries to inspire people-centered problem-solving. We offer the DEEPdt Playbook, which includes a design thinking introduction called a Flashlab, free of charge under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Share Out the Innovative Work Happening at Your School

Listen to the podcast below, or on iTunes and Podcast AppGoogle Play, or Stitcher.

Then share out your thoughts in the comments and highlight the innovative work happening in your school!

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