Pre-Planning Recap: Day 3

Today, Middle School teachers had the pleasure of working with Meg Cureton on a design thinking flash lab centered around making connections with one another. DT FLash LabConnections: Design Thinking Flash Lab
Part of the flash lab included these two excellent videos (we may have skipped the second one, actually, be we’ve used it before and it’s really good).

Get Things Done
We had a few hours to get some things done on our own and grab some lunch. Then, we followed up on our morning flash lab with some creative time in the Studio(i) maker space. We took our low-res prototypes and turned them into something more high-res and impactful for one another. We also learned how to use several of the technologies in the studio.

Maker LabMiddle School Maker Lab
Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 4.28.39 PMMake, Design, and Engineering @ MVPS


Love Beyond Walls

Love Beyond Walls

I spent today working with the coolest group of educators (yea – team red!) for the coolest non-profit in Atlanta, Love Beyond Walls. Our Fuse Commander Meghan Cureton was flawless and demonstrated exceptional leadership throughout the entire process. On day two of #Fuse16, we collaborated in teams of 5-6 to understand and solve for the needs of Love Beyond Walls founder Terrence using the DEEP design thinking process. We used many of the design thinking playbook tools including MoVe Man…

We met…Terrence. A passionate visionary committed to building relationships and provide both relief and development to those in poverty in Atlanta.

We were blown away…by his personal story, the depth of his commitment, his life’s mission to increase awareness about poverty while restoring dignity, and how much support he has been given mainly via social media connections.

What if…we could support his efforts by getting others to ‘walk with Terrence’ in his upcoming campaign from Atlanta to DC.

love beyond walls

We were challenged to create a low-res video using the this framework…

story arc

Here is our prototype using the story arc…

Fuse 2016: Coaching Design Thinking

Fuse 2016: Coaching Design Thinking


The annual MVIFI Fuse Conference at Mount Vernon kicked off to a strong start this morning with the DT 101 Flash Lab. I am excited to be serving as a design thinking coach and member of the Flight Crew (yes! this means I get a new badge) for the third consecutive year.


Things I Like Most About Fuse
– Getting inspired by the passion, commitment, and hard work of my colleagues (see Bo, Meghan, Jim, James, TJ, and Trey) (not to mention all of the fabulous coaches, faculty, and students)
– Getting more laps with design thinking. I learn something new and deepen my experience every time
– Meeting and networking with fantastic, passionate educators from all of the country (even the globe)
– The MoVE (Moment of Visible Empathy) Talks are always a highlight. I love the stories, the passion, the ideas, and the stage.
– Welcoming new (new to Mount Vernon or simply new to Fuse) Mount Vernon team members to the conference as one of their first experiences as part of the faculty.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 3.33.20 PM

What do you like most about Fuse?

Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact


Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact

Drones provide a gateway to learning many practical and helpful uses for human-centered problem solving, as well as simple fun and curiosity. Here are a few ideas to consider…

Paint Your House

Advertise your product/company with a flying drone billboard

Ambulance Drone for Medical Emergencies

Submarine Periscope

Save the lives of African babies with HIV testing

Drone Racing is the Sport of the Future

Search for Lost Dogs

Monitor Marine Reserves and Spot Illegal Fishing

Droneport for Africa

A Robot That Flies Like A Bird

Find the Best Waves for Surfing Safely

Avoid Traffic by Flying Yourself to School or Work

Deliver to Ships at Sea

Detect Land Mines

Save People From Drowning

What applications can you share?

Sustainable Design


Sustainable Design

Today, Ms. Domby’s 5th Grade class listened and provided feedback to a presentation from 4 of the Upper School iDiploma students. The topic was how do we make sustainability part of our DNA at Mount Vernon? The feature was a prototype of a recycling/landfill bin designed and tested by the students.

The presentation and the exchange were both impressive. It’s fascinating to see Middle and Upper School students interacting with one another to solve problems and make their school a better place. There are a number of students and faculty who are passionate about sustainability and specifically recycling. They have been exchanging ideas online throughout the semester and met at a session during the Collider conference a few weeks ago.

Ever since arriving at Mount Vernon six years ago as Director of Admissions, I have been frustrated by the combination of black trash cans and blue recycle bins that have greeted visitors in the doorway of every single classroom. Often tripping over the unsightly combination of plastic containers and overflowing bits of garbage, the positioning of these items is unwelcoming and poor fung shui.

This fall, we removed the individual, blue recycling bins from each room and replaced them with a single, larger recycling bin at the end of each hallway. This shift has solved the problem of cluttered entry ways, but has not improved the culture of sustainability and recycling that many in our community hope to achieve. Today’s presentation was a positive step in that direction.

The prototype included two bins: one labeled Recycle and the other labeled Landfill. Landfill is more appropriate than trash as the students wanted to help the average user visualize the end result of their disposal, hoping instead to inspire them to use the recycle bin when appropriate. The prototype bin is much larger than the original blue bin, but it is still in the early stages. The students shared future visions of 3 higher res prototypes made of wood, plastic, and something else.

The proto-bins were tested in 3 classrooms and used maki-maki technology to count the number of times the bins’ doors were opened. It revealed a 100% increase in use. Impressive data!

The Middle School students gave great feedback, encouraging an even larger size bin. They also recommended putting the bin on wheels so its positioning around the room was flexible. After all, learning demands flexible and interactive spaces. So does sustainability.

Well done! I’m proud of our students, teachers, and their collaborative efforts. Truly, they are living and practicing the MV Continuum and principles of design thinking. I love my School.

What are your ideas for a new and improved system for making sustainability part of our DNA?

4 Qualities of Empathy

4 Qualities of Empathy4 Qualities of Empathy

Yesterday at Northpoint, Clay Scroggins delivered a relevant message with key insights about empathy. Empathy is the central key to relationships, especially when there is ‘bad blood.’ Empathy is ‘first aid’ for bad blood.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18

A Message
by Clay Scroggins

1) Take on their perspective as truth.
2) Suspend your judgement.
3) Recognize their emotion.
4) Communicate that emotion.

Continuing to see the situation from your side doesn’t change anything.

Sympathy = acknowledging their feelings.
Empathy = actually feeling their feelings.

Have you done everything you can do to feel it from their side?

Jesus is God’s most empathetic statement to us.

When you make the long walk of empathy, you are mirroring what he did for you.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16

christ empathy

Jesus is our model and our motivation.

How well developed are your empathy skills? Who do you need to make peace with by making the long walk to seeing things from their perspective?

Northpoint Community Church

Design Thinking: First Day of School

Design Thinking: First Day of School

Middle School Faculty engaged in a Design Thinking Flashlab to reimagine the first day of school. Conducting empathy interviews with several of our student “users” we were amazed to learn that students want time to ease in and reconnect.

Design Thinking: First Day of School
Design Thinking: First Day of School – 6th Grade teachers and students enjoy an empathy interview.
Design Thinking: First Day of School
Tasha and Jenny lead the whole team through a Design Thinking Flash Lab.
Design Thinking: First Day of School
Our Grade 7 Team collaborates to unpack empathy interviews and begin prototyping a new schedule for day one.
Design Thinking: First Day of School
Jenny introduces the D.E.E.P. process of Design Thinking. Discover. Empathize. Experiment. Produce.
Design Thinking: First Day of School
Team 6 prototyping a skit to share their designs with the whole group.

Students will be spending time in breakout sessions and stations to learn about their Chromebooks, online resources/texts, Haiku, Power School, and care for their CBs. They will meet with their conference mentors and set goals for student led conferences, as well as set up their new Digication ePortfolios.

The Deans will cover essential items from the handbook and boys and girls will break out into groups to discuss what it means to Respect and Protect. There is plenty of time built in for social connections and snacks, as well as practicing that new locker combination, and maybe even some kickball. It’s going to be a fun day and a great start to a new school year!

New to Design Thinking? Welcome to the Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking from Stanford’s d.School.

Check out the AK12DC (Atlanta K-12 Design Challenge) Summit that Mount Vernon has participated in for the past two years.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Design Thinking

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Design Thinking at #Fuse15 Conference
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Design Thinking at #Fuse15 Conference

At the annual Fuse15 Conference (#Fuse15) hosted by the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, I had the privilege of serving as a coach to a fantastic group of educators and also presenting a MoVe Talk (Moment of Visible Empathy) for an audience of 110 educators and representatives from several Atlanta area non-profit organizations. I shared my team’s experiences with design thinking over the past two years as part of the Atlanta K12 Design Thinking Challenge (#AK12DC) in partnership with the Dobbs Foundation and Stanford’s d.School. AK12DC is a unique community of public and private schools partnering to bring more design thinking to schools across Atlanta. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in all of these opportunities and honored to share them with the inspiring people I work with each day.

Titled “Avoiding the Pitfalls of Design Thinking,” the talk focused on the successes and ‘fail up’ moments of our journey ‘to foster a more nurturing, learner-centered environment that inspires a culture of natural collaboration and flexibility to move.’

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Design Thinking is an approach to human-centered problem-solving created at Stanford over 10 years ago, used by major corporations such as First Data as a framework for innovation and forward-thinking schools such as Mount Vernon as an authentic, instructional strategy. You can read much more about design thinking…Standford’s d.School, Design Thinking Ideo, and Deep Design Thinking.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Design Thinking

  1. Be mindful of the whole ecosystem – You may solve one user’s problem only to create new problems for other users. Don’t become so singularly focused on your user that you forget the context in which their challenges exist.
  2. Carry your best ideas to completion – Making an impact may require more than launched prototypes as the end result. I’ve written hundreds of unfinished songs – you’ve never heard them. What are your unfinished ideas?
  3. Deviate from the recipe – What you seek is more elusive than a linear, step-by-step process, leading to stagnant and diluted creativity. A framework is important and useful. Creativity loves constraints, but don’t feel like you have to follow every step, every time, in the same sequence.
  4. Don’t neglect vision – Balance opportunities based on user insights (needs for now) with leader’s foresight (anticipate the future). I wish the ‘designers’ of Atlanta’s roadways had planned for 50 years beyond their time. It’s too late to redesign now. Read The Myth of China’s Ghost Cities. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18
Coaching the Blue Crew "Charlie" through our design thinking challenge. Our goal was to help the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and the Mary Hall Freedom House in their partnership to move individuals from recovery or poverty to the middle class...along their highway of hope.
Coaching the Blue Crew “Charlie” through our design thinking challenge. Our goal was to help the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and the Mary Hall Freedom House in their partnership to move individuals from recovery or poverty to the middle class…along their highway of hope.