Eli MacLaren

Nellie Mae Foundation Funds Students Design for Education

We’re happy to announce a $50,000 grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to support our Student Experience Lab in launching Students Design for Education(SD4E), a project to create the first in the nation school designed by and for students.

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation works with schools to implement the principles of student-centered learning — personalized, engaging, competency-based learning that  happens anytime, anywhere.

The SD4E project empowers students as designers.  Over the course of the project, BIF will partner with Youth in Action and 24 young people from across the state of Rhode Island to design, test, and shine a storytelling spotlight on a school designed by and for students. Using human-centered design principles, students will create a school model that responds to the design challenge: How might we design a truly student-centered school?

SD4E is not a make-believe exercise to temporarily engage a small group of students. The Rhode Island Board of Education (RIDE) has committed to making this student-designed educational model a reality, either through district adoption or by issuing an RFP to identify an operator for the proposed school.

The combination of Youth in Action’s strength in supporting young leaders, BIF’s expertise in leading design processes and storytelling, and RIDE’s commitment to implementation, offers unusually powerful possibilities for shining a spotlight on what transformation looks like when students are at the center.

“We’re on a mission to demonstrate the power of young people taking a lead role in designing their own educational experiences,” said Saul Kaplan, BIF Chief Catalyst. “We’re thrilled that the Nellie Mae Foundation is providing support to this exciting BIF effort.”

The student designers will be challenged to consider how student engagement is baked into the ongoing operations of the school they are designing, so that the school that emerges from this process will not only reflect the voice, vision, and values of the 24 students directly engaged in the design process; it will be set up to continue to evolve based on the passions and needs of its ever-changing student body. The goal is to create a school that can meet students where they are, capable of personalizing an experience that is owned and curated by each student.

“We share BIF’s commitment to student-centered systems change,” said Nicholas Donohue, Chief Executive Officer of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “We are excited to see how this approach can contribute to the education innovation in Rhode Island and beyond.”

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