Monta Vista High School Works to Solve Community Problems Through Design Thinking

May 2, 2022

During the 2020-2021 school year, a group of Monta Vista High School educators and staff came together as students were returning to the classroom with the idea of creating an interdisciplinary research course as a proactive response to the multitude of issues facing our young people today. As a team, we envisioned a course where students could learn more about issues related to equity, social and emotional learning, antiracism and anti-bias, with an eye towards finding a problem in our own community and creating potential solutions to address it. Inspired by the work of Will Cavada at East Side Union High School District, we embraced design thinking at the core of the process the students went through as well as throughout our dual-enrollment courses. We were also drawn to Stanford d.School’s Design Thinking model, particularly due to its emphasis on empathy based problem solving, and that’s when we connected with KCI to engage their expertise in implementing design thinking in the classroom. 

The California Department of Education has recognized the need for our students to have not only strong academic skills, but to also support the “soft” skills employers are looking for today, Two decades of research have shown the need for including an equity lens to promote the creation of “caring, just, inclusive, and healthy communities that support all individuals in reaching their fullest potential. Our vision of the class was to empower our students with self-directed learning with educator guidance. Each student sought out an adult mentor with whom they could collaborate throughout the school year. In addition, thanks to KCI and Foothill College, students were offered dual enrollment where they were able to earn college credits along with high school credit, which speaks to the uniqueness and rigor of the class. We were also able to offer this exceptional opportunity to our students due to the generosity and vision of the Fremont Union High Schools Foundation, without whom this program would not have been possible. In addition, we are grateful for the grant provided by the Monta Vista PTSA which enabled us to purchase library books for all of our students on topics around equity and inclusion as well as classroom supplies that assisted students in their visioning process. 

Our students have definitely exceeded our expectations, and you can see the culmination of their hard work and dedication on Friday, May 13th from 4-7 PM at the student-led and facilitated MV STEAM Exploration-Showcase and Symposium.  During this event, students will share their research findings in a carnival-like atmosphere complete with food trucks, drama, arts, cultural performances and an invited panel of experts.  Student projects span across STEM, humanities, arts, and athletics.

Our student community has voiced their desire to understand complex, multidisciplinary causes of systemic inequities. Ultimately, we move forward with this work with the belief that nothing can stop a group of committed and determined youth who want to make a positive difference in their world with the support of committed adults in the school and wider community. 

Monta Vista High School students will present their research findings on May 13, 2022 at the MV STEAM Exploration Showcase and Symposium, a student-led event.

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