Contributed by the Innovation Diploma Team

A signature experience for students during their first year in Innovation Diploma is hosting a dinner. This experience allows learners to get a full lap through the Design Brief Framework while also experiencing the Gold Standard PBL (project-based learning).

During the third mod, Upper School Innovation Diploma teachers Larisa Pender-Healy and Emily Wilcox, expertly guided the freshman iD cohort through their Molecular Gastronomy and Graphic Design classes respectively, which culminated in the dinner event honoring the Innovation Diploma Class of 2022. For many reasons, this serves as a very impactful experience for students.

The Challenging Problem

At the beginning of the mod, Larisa shared this Design Scope with students, providing their problem statement. This served as the jumping-off point as they dove right into their project. In iD, design scopes are used as a way to frame problems and set expectations for the quality of work that is required to be successful.

Our world’s problems require us to value and teach interdisciplinary thinking. These freshmen have been challenged to curate a dinner to celebrate the senior class,” Larisa shared in one of her many tweets featuring this project. “Yes, it’s a chemistry class that also focuses on event planning, user experience design, graphic design, and STEM.”

Sustained Inquiry

Students formed design teams and set out creating menus and concepts for their restaurants. This didn’t happen quickly. Larisa connected students with a local chef and event planner who served as MVXperts and consulting partners. This was also an opportunity to focus on the foundational chemistry knowledge that students learned through cooking. Meanwhile, in Graphic Design students were tasked with creating brand packages including logos, stylescapes, menu design, and social media marketing posts. This allowed an opportunity for students to learn and practice the basics of visual design, color theory, typography, and marketing.


The Freshman were instantly hooked on this project. They were ready and excited to connect with the iD seniors. Through empathy interviews and surveys, they learned more about their client, but more than anything else, they wanted to prove that they could succeed. It felt real because the stakes were high enough to make them a little nervous. 

Student Voice and Choice

Each design team was responsible for planning their menu, designing their restaurant space, cooking their food, and creating a memorable experience for the seniors. By the end of the mod, each group had their own culture of learning because they felt ownership over the entire experience. 

iD classes almost always end with students writing case studies as a way to reflect on their learning. For the culmination of this mod, students compiled a portfolio showing their journey as a designer and their best work, along with cookbooks where they described the chemical reactions that were used to prepare their food.

Critique and Revision

At several points throughout the process, students met with seniors, external experts, the iD team, and peers to ask for feedback on their project. Each time they were critiqued, they found ways to improve their work. 

Talk about real world work,” Emily shared. “Chemistry, graphic design, event planning, leadership, collaboration…. And creme brulee… it’s all good stuff!” 

Public Product

The day of the dinner was hectic, to say the least! Students were running around building cooking focaccia, rolling sushi, building accent walls, and washing dishes. They were motivated by the fact that they had 40 attendees coming to see and taste their work. It was truly magical to see the momentum of a student’s learning take them to places they didn’t expect.