Interdisciplinary projects

Real-world impact and audiences

Facilitated by experts

These are the three primary components of the studio-based learning model at NuVu, an innovation school located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What is a studio? A studio is where students work closely with coaches (often leaders in their industry or field) to solve big (and small) open-ended problems. The problems all have some type of real-world impact or are aimed at encouraging students to create a helpful solution.

“We want students to have experiences as they create these projects that are unlike anything they have ever experienced before. Their learning should feel original and challenge them to think of new ideas,” shared founder Saeed Arida.

The studio model that NuVu offers provides students with the opportunity to problem-solve through creating and building. The curriculum at NuVu is based on the architectural studio model. Students are presented with an open-ended topic and, within a two-week studio framework, they work collaboratively among themselves to create both a problem and a solution.

Studios are multidisciplinary and may require robotics, coding, fabrication, electronic and/or a variety of other technological skills. Through this curriculum, students have the opportunity to create, make and build. At Nuvu, it is less about the end result or the project and more about how the students iterate, synthesize feedback and come up with solutions–often a messy process.

3 Things to Learn from NuVu:

1. No grades. No subjects. No one-hour schedule.

If we want true project-based learning, we have to be okay with students working for extended periods of time on skills and competencies. While this may be difficult for some schools to take on if they are serving hundreds of students, rethink how you can facilitate some projects that are less grade-driven and tied to the bell schedule. Students have time to prototype and iterate their products and designs until they feel confident it will help solve the problem or will please the audience or person they are working to create a solution for.

student building butterfly out of cardboard
Students building cardboard dogs in studio-based learning space

2. True facilitation and trust

During my visit to NuVu, students were working diligently, and they were self-directed. They certainly had some background in building and the time to learn the skills that they were applying, but overall they were trusted to be on task and working on their projects. Coaches and experts circulated to address questions and support students.

The picture below shows a system employed by NuVu where students can sign up to use tools and machines needed to complete their projects–totally student created and maintained.

projection on a wall of running reservation list of classroom supplies
3. Professional products

Students produce products and then showcase them in their online portfolios. They have a beautiful online platform to use and the tools (see image and video studio below) to use and share their work. Students receive feedback from experts, such as visual/media artists and designers, about how to craft and deliver great presentations and portfolios. Students clearly have a lot of pride in their work. Check out some of the students projects.

Makeshift photo/video studio with white background, for sharing final results on projects developed in their studio-based learning classroom

How are you using some of these ideas in your project-based teaching? Share in the comments below.

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