Rome was not built in a day

Neither was the iPhone for that matter.  Or the Waze App.  Or Google.  Three things that have enhanced our lives and created convenience in countless ways.  Last year Design39Campus opened its doors for the first time, and 850 students experienced education as they never had before.  It was innovative.  It was progressive.  It was collaborative.  And it was so new, that it caught us all off guard.  It is one thing to hear about the ideas, the transformation of education, and the hours upon hours of work that the Learning Experience Designers (LED) put into creating a unique, ever changing curriculum, and it is another to experience it.

What does creativity, collaboration and prototype creation actually LOOK like?

To many, it looked like a breath of fresh air.  We didn’t receive worksheets and homework “just because.”  Our children created presentations on their computers that some of us have no idea how to do.  However, to others it looked unstructured, chaotic even. To some it looked like too much freedom.  You couldn’t really know how you’d feel about it or how your CHILDREN would feel about it until they were there.  There were those who poured their hearts into D39C because we needed to really see what it was about, and to help contribute to make it the best it could possibly be.  As a parent I was, and continue to be, blown away by the transparency, intelligence, dedication, and camaraderie of the extremely hard working staff and parents. Literally, WOW.

In 2014-2015, the Collaborative was formed, design thinking workshop after design thinking workshop flushed out a myriad of ideas, desires, and concerns, and we built on this fabulous concept of a choice-driven education that empowers children.  Most LED’s worked so hard they hardly had time for their own families.  It was not unusual for the principal to respond to emails very late at night.  It seemed like everyone had an opinion, and many forgot that it was the first year of many more to come.  Despite some having a hard time without the constant evaluation of children (how do you evaluate collaboration, the ability to think outside the box and create; there are no set answers found on our traditional worksheets), D39C won the 2014-2015 Innovation Award & was named one of the Top 20 Schools to Watch.  People from all over the world came to tour the school.  Some were absolutely blown away; others realized the school was not for them and decided not to return in the Fall.

Before we knew it summer came and just like we used to, our kids stayed up too late, went to camp, swam in the sun, and got some distance from the daily routine and hustle and bustle of the school year.  I think we forgot that principals and LED’s work in the summer.  So when we came back to school this year, I was a bit caught off guard at the familiarity, the ease and the established relationships.  Perhaps I forgot what a transition last year was.

Day one

This year, many of the LED’s looped (moved up a grade with the children), so there were many less first day jitters.  Parents brought in supplies from the supply list emailed by their LED’s, like we used to at our former schools.  There were no construction workers trying to complete the school during the day, we knew which way the traffic flowed in the morning, and hearing the morning song (instead of a bell) was not so foreign.  A beautiful piece of literature created by the Collaborative shared all of the progress made last year.  And suddenly, as I walked my children to the car after the first day of school, it dawned on me:  oh wow, this is just the start of year two.  We have come REALLY far in a year.  I can only imagine what this school will look like after 5 years.  Or 10.  Or 20.

Changes in 2015-2016:

  • 8 new LED’s joined the school, as did over 250 students
  • D39C now goes through 7th grade
  • Amy Richardson has joined Kyle Kupper & Sonya Wrisley as the “third principal,” together, they are redefining principal and essentially dividing it into 3rds
  • Dedicated focus on personalization to allow students to learn above their grade level
  • All 6th & 7th Graders are in the same level of one building
  • All of the Collaborative positions are filled and the Collaborative is hitting the ground running


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