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Introducing Impact Design Lab (IDL), a Mount Vernon Middle School designed class where students are taught to find problems and ask “How can I fix this?” instead of “I wish this was different”. Over the summer, we sat down with the three educational designers: Todd Wass, Ryan Welch, and Kevin Day to learn what this new class is, and why it will be a game changer for the Middle School.

What is the Impact Design Lab?

As a precursor to the iD program in Upper School, the Middle School launched a new signature program – called IDL – Impact Design Lab this year for Grade 8 students. Similar to iD the program will work in multi-week design sprints and focus on developing solutions with community impact as a key driver.

Ada and Ava testing the safety of a slightly damp climbing structure

Is it a completely new program?

It is completely new. As a School of inquiry, innovation, and impact, we aspire to design a better world. We believe Middle School Students can and should be empowered to imagine and design that better world, right now. The IDL will allow our Middle School leaders to learn in ways that invite and challenge each of us to become agents of positive change and maximum impact – and to do it together.

Students collaborating on their sketches of a playground structure

How will the IDL benefit students?

The IDL will help Middle Schoolers channel their energy, curiosity, and desire for connection towards becoming the empathetic change-makers our world needs them to be. With each step into the design thinking process, we expect to find our students learning how to find, befriend, and solve problems. We can’t wait to see what our students can achieve with more time and tools to ask questions that matter to them, and then pursue possible answers through laps of inquiry, research, brainstorming, design, and reflection. We expect our IDL graduates will have taken real steps into the kind of independent learning that propels them forward with energy, optimism, and a few more tools with which to navigate an increasingly complex world.

Students collaborating on their sketches of a playground structure

What are some exciting features of the IDL?

We are excited to lean into authentic, real-world problems with our students, especially those that they identify as such. For teacher-designers within this program, this will mean carving out enough open space in daily, weekly, and semester lesson plans for our students to begin directing more of our learning journey. We also mean to be a hub of inquiry within our Middle School, and a bridge-builder across our wider Mount Vernon School family. We are eager to show up to our School as collaborators and co-creators of a school day that crackles with delight and possibility.

Follow the work of IDL students on twitter @TheMVDesignLab