Exploring what makes schools cool with a community of students @Portalschools

“My school is cool” is something we would love to hear from every kid. We are currently far from that, and at Minds Studio we have decided to dig deeper into the elements and dynamics of schools that motivate students the most.

The goal of this research project is to showcase the best practices we can find in the industry -according to the students- so we can understand a bit better what the students of the current teenage generation are excited to learn.

Why Portal Schools

Portals Schools is an intentionally diverse community committed to offering students engaging, relevant and personalized learning experiences, while reimagining the traditional model of high school and providing key elements for lifelong success.  

Their educational model emphasizes the concurrent attainment of a high school diploma and a college degree within a real world learning environment.  Portal’s campuses are shared with partnering corporations, giving students the opportunity to dive into exciting, hands-on internships, and obtain a diverse range of invaluable learning experiences. Their first campus is housed at Belkin International, in Los Angeles.

Portals Microschools

Portals microschools, which house no more than 60 students per campus, are places where student voices are heard and each individual is valued. Students have ample opportunities to develop their passions and purpose within our community and in the world at large through personalized learning pathways that support them academically, socially and emotionally.

Career connected learning

Career Connected Learning prepares students for their next steps in life and career by combining professional exploration and experience across sectors with personal self-awareness and discovery. It is integrated across the Portal learning experience, from work with professional partners to studio and individual work to advisory and portfolio.

Portal places students in an authentic work environment, providing them regular chances to engage with various roles and departments in the real world workforce. Each student’s career experience is personalized to their interests and career goals. Students have the opportunity to wear many hats and “fail forward,” so that they make more informed decisions about where to dive deep, and what their next steps should be.

The partnership with Minds Studio

Portals is partnering with 12 companies to practice complex problem solving & gain insight on professional practice. At Minds Studio, we have designed a challenge for their students so they start using design thinking and entrepreneurship tools to develop and present solutions, documenting their journeys along the way.

The project brief

Context: Education is universally agreed as one of the most important investments a society can make in its own success. Yet, innovation in the both US education sector and globally is woefully behind many other sectors. There are a number of reasons for this, from outdated ideas, bureaucracy and bad policy to credentialing, talent and socioeconomic disparity.  

According to many experts, here are just a few ways education can improve: first, by empowering students to have more agency in their education and design schools around their needs; second, by sharing best practices and ideas from these schools and students; and third, by helping students do more real world learning in collaboration with companies and communities. To that end, Minds Studio “researches, designs and implements learning experiences in collaboration with fearless companies”

Problem:  The lack of awareness of existing great schools, and lack of understanding about what great schools can be, hinder innovation efforts. This is true for all stakeholders, but students especially, who are far too often removed from the school design process itself.  

Why: Too many schools  are bad, boring, or both. But they don’t have to be. Nor does academic rigor or reputation correspond with student happiness and engagement. This means that very few schools are actually cool; and way too many students are unhappy and underserved. Most people have such a narrow conception of school (often based on their own experience and that of close friends) that we cannot think bigger, nevermind try or build new options. 

Minds Studio is addressing this problem by developing new products, school models, and collaborations to redefine schools as learning communities. Portal students are a part of this movement and have the potential to make an impact. 

Challenge: It’s clear we need more Cool Schools. It’s a massive, generational challenge. One of the key needs is to get students more involved in the process. That starts with understanding what students want and need and which schools are actually delivering. Students will undertake an R&D project to identify precisely that. 

The deliverable

This deliverable will be published on the MS website and other potential partners’ publications, and shopped to Minds Studio’s list of clients to build a global project with the students’ insights at heart. It will consist of:

  1. A review the top 10 schools shortlisted by the Minds Studio Network according to 5 different criteria set in advance by the students & Minds Studio.
  2. A set of recommendations to each of the schools shortlisted, after interviewing different stakeholders of the shortlisted schools. What are the highs and lows of these cool schools? What is the student experience like?

The timeframe

This project kickstarted on the 10th of January, and it will run for 4 weeks. If you are interested in participating do not hesitate to reach out to Minds Studio.

5 Years igniting the spark of curiosity🔥. Read more here!