A Challenge to the Region’s Students: Design the High School of the Future!

Beginning this September, Thrive 2055 and Bright Spark will ask teams of middle and high school students from around the tristate, 16-county region, to design the high school of the future. With their teachers as guides, students will engage in a collaborative process to design a school that uses new ideas about teaching and learning, makes the most of emerging technologies, and emphasizes creativity.  Registration is open until August 18, 2016. To learn more, email Ruthie Thompson at Thrive 2055.

Throughout the school year, the student teams will engage in virtual coaching sessions with designers, reach out to their communities for input, and build a prototype for the school of 2055 or beyond.

So how different could that classroom be?  Think about what classrooms were like 20, 40, even 100 years ago.

The classroom below could have been my grandfather’s, in Illinois, about 1915.



In 1945, when my father was in 8th grade, the cutting edge communications technology was radio.


(We’re wondering where the kid got his shiner.)

In 1955, educational programming was just emerging on a new medium: television.


This is what my high school classroom looked like in 1975, 40 years ago. In this class, we still used sliderules. Electronic calculators were considered cheating.


The classes I took 40 years ago were English, History, Latin II, Geometry, Art, Chemistry, Home Economics and Typing. The year I took typing, the school had just invested in new electric typewriters.

So how much difference do 40 years make? The curriculum has not changed much, but technology has.


In 2015 tablets have replaced typewriters, the blackboard is gone, but it looks like you can still get stuck in your desk if you get up too fast.

What will a classroom look like 10 years from now?


Twenty years from now?


What about 2055? 40 years from now?

Will we need desks?


Will we need walls?


Or even buildings? The design below is a portable, self-powering classroom that can be moved to locations that need it.


This is why we are asking the talented young people of today to design the school of tomorrow. How do we change the region’s education paradigm so that our citizens are ready for the future?

During the process, the design challenge teams will learn creative skills that will help them navigate the rapidly changing job market in our region today.

“Designers collaborate, innovate, empathize, experiment and come at difficult challenges with critical thinking and creativity,” says Jenny Whitener, founder of Bright Spark. “These skills are hugely important for our students and teachers, as they search for ways to thrive in a technologically-rich creative economy.”

We do not know what the future holds, but Thrive 2055 is deeply committed to reaching beyond today and helping our region’s teachers and students succeed.

We’re really looking forward to what they come up with.






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