Anastasis Academy inspiration

Lessons learned from Stanford, Google, IDEO and Pixar

This weekend I spent some time with incredible innovators at Stanford University to talk about innovation in education.  All walks of life gathered at to discuss problems in education and to propose solutions.

My biggest takeaway: Education needs more design thinking and collaborative concepting at all levels.

Throughout the day we shared stories, created concept maps, brainstormed collaboratively, identified problems in education and prototyped possible solutions.  I love that we didn’t just give answers. We prototyped possible solutions in the prototype lab where we had access to all kinds of great building materials.  We came up with some pretty impressive solutions.  What if schools operated more like this?  If teachers and students worked together as designers.  This is the drive behind Anastasis Academy’s morning inquiry block.  We look at big questions and work on interdisciplinary projects that incorporate a range of subjects and disciplines of learning.

“What if the process of education were as intentionally crafted as the products of education (i.e., we always think about the book report or the final project, but not the path to get there).” (Fast Company)

Schools have a lot to learn from Google, IDEO and Pixar.  These are companies that have created a culture of creativity, play and collaboration.  IDEO mirrors this culture in their physical space.  The space lends itself to creativity and new ideas because the space isn’t overly prescriptive.  Stanford’s was very similar.  Tracks run all over the building where walls of whiteboards can be clipped in and moved around easily.  A writing space wherever and whenever you need one.  Brilliant.  All of the furniture is on wheels, it is easily moved and rearranged based on current needs.  Large wooden Lego-type blocks can be easily moved, arranged and built with for any situation.

I love the philosophies of Pixar, the layout is designed to foster “forced collisions of people”.  Students with different backgrounds, passions and understandings collided in new understandings.  Would forced collisions of people encourage a whole new population of da Vinci thinking?

At Google play is not only encouraged, it is deeply engrained in the culture.  Spaces are flexible and constantly changing and being built.  This is was the case in Stanford’s and I have to say, the instant ability to edit our workspace impacted our thinking.  “Imagine what might happen if students had this same power to edit and make their own spaces within the school environment.” (Fast Company)

I highly recommend the following article from Fast Company “What Schools Can Learn From Google, IDEO, and Pixar.”

The article mentions High Tech High, a collection of charter schools in Southern California led by Larry Rosenstock.  Please take the 14 minutes to watch this great video about High Tech High!  Innovation is education is emerging in pockets all over the world. Anastasis Academy is a part of this innovation!


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  1. HTH is a lot like my school. At my school, you can do whatever you want, but it’s not incorporated into the core curriculum.
    They don’t make the whole “tech” thing so obvious, but we do a ton of project based learning, relating to art and science.

  2. Hi,

    I found this article and the video of High Tech High really interesting and it totally reinforces the thinking of Dan Pink in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future.”

    I teach a practical subject in a workshop where students follow a design cycle to analyze and investigate a problem to develop a solution that they then manufacture, test and evaluate. Every project involves many cross curricular links and my students not only learn how to use tools and machines, they also learn how to critically analyze existing products and their own designs, incorporate their knowledge from other subjects into their solutions and also develop their collaborative skills as they work together to develop their ideas. I see these skills as being vital for students to develop and are clearly what employers require when recruiting.

  3. Tom, I’m a big Daniel Pink fan! Really enjoyed both A Whole New Mind and Drive.
    I love that you use design thinking in that way, it is vital!

  4. I am very impressed with what I have read on the Anastasis website. It looks as though your school is really innovative and I love the fact that learning is personalized to each and every student’s interests and hobbies. I also like that you have your students assess themselves based on their own past performances and not those of their peers.

    How do the students that come from ‘traditional’ schools react to this type of assessment and teaching model when they enter Anastasis?

  5. Tom, the students have done brilliantly coming from the traditional school. It is funny, there parents tell me that the kids come home saying they don’t learn anything at school…they just have fun. Then they proceed to tell their parents in detail about all kinds of projects, research, etc. they were engaged in. Things parents would have NEVER heard prior to Anastasis. They don’t realize they are learning!

    Honestly the ones we have to detox the most is the parents, they have been through traditional education the longest and it is hard to undo what we think education should look like. We hold a Parent University every 5 weeks to “unteach” parents about education. Great opportunity for us to talk about what real learning looks like.

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