Innovation Diploma (iD) in Upper School

Innovation Diploma (iD) in the Upper School is a unique, four-year educational experience designed to nurture innovative thinkers and problem solvers. This project-based program offers students in grades 9-12 a distinctive blend of core academics integrated with authentic learning focused on real-world challenges. Students collaborate with industry partners, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations on design briefs, developing critical skills in design thinking, communication, empathy, creativity, and project management.

Key Features:
  • Application is open to enthusiastic and curious learners in Grade 8
  • Emphasizes creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork skills
  • Additional annual fee with financial assistance available
  • Prepares students for success in college and beyond, cultivating a mindset for creating impactful solutions

iProject in Upper School

What do you love to do, what do you want to know more about?  You get to pursue these things in iProject. Part of Mount Vernon’s mission is for student learning to be driven by curiosity and passion in the areas of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact.  In iProject, students have an opportunity to drive their own learning and manage their own projects through two mini-investigations in these areas.  

In the second iProject, students take more ownership in leading a deeper dive into their passion projects.  Skills learned in iProject 1 will be utilized for robust curious projects in the student’s area of Inquiry, Innovation, or Impact.  This single project lasts the full Mod with an emphasis on Design Thinking Framework. 

Students who are self-motivated and have a desire to pursue their own project will have the opportunity to take iProject a third time as an independent study.  Internships with outside agencies would be an option or continued personal work.  Students will be seeking mentorship by industry professionals in their area of study.

Impact Design Lab in Middle School

At Mount Vernon, we believe Middle School students can and should be empowered to imagine and design a better world. Impact Design Lab (IDL) is a course designed to spark the curiosity and wonder of every Eighth Grader towards imagining and designing that better world right now.
Leaning into the four D’s of Mount Vernon’s design thinking compass:


Starting with How Might We (HMW) questions, IDL students have developed solutions to the following questions:

  • How Might We re-imagine the Mustang Rally field games?
  • How Might We make Middle School more accessible?
  • How Might We re-imagine meaningful faculty appreciation?

iDL is a hub of inquiry, innovation, and impact within the Middle School that invites all kinds of fruitful connections across the entire school, especially as we can connect with, celebrate, encourage, challenge, and complement the inquiry-based learning that is alive and well in the Lower School (especially iProject mini) and the Upper School (especially iProject and iD).

iProject Mini in Lower School

Inspired by iProject on Upper Campus, iProject Mini puts students in the driver’s seat of their learning. Fifth Graders build student agency by exploring self-selected topics, conducting interviews, practicing digital fluency, and developing research skills.

iProject Mini pushes learners to ask big questions. Students work together to find experts by leveraging their social capital of people they know and their areas of expertise. Experts from around the world were interviewed by iProject mini students including:

  • a zoologist from the Monterey Zoo
  • former NFL and NBA players
  • UNICEF volunteer

As we prepare students to design for a better world, students learn that their own passions have meaning, value, and impact. From teaching little leaguers to hit a home run, creating a warmup program for our cross-country team, or designing comfortable clothing for kids, iProject Mini students put their passions into pursuits that are consequential to themselves and others.

Little Learners

Design thinking is a powerful problem-solving framework that helps us to put people at the center of our design. To support the learning across all of our divisions, and especially in our signature programs, we developed a series of proprietary visual thinking routines and tools. Design thinking is for everyone – no matter the age, because of that we created the Little Learners field guide, a collection of tools developed by a cross-divisional team of Mount Vernon teachers designed to empower our little learners to do big design work.