DIY High

Here’s a lunch napkin design for new high school where students create the job they want.
1. Grad requirements include:

  • An LLC and a business plan
  • A website and mobile app
  • A ‘Shark Tank’ pitch to potential investors
  • 101 merit badges

2. 101 Merit badges include:

  • 20 in math and problem solving
  • 20 in communications
  • 40 in applied world knowledge
  • 20 in work & life skills
  • 1 for acceptance into a postsecondary program

(See On Merit Badges for background)
3. Learning supports include:

  • a really good advisor
  • goal/competency tracking system & portfolio
  • wide variety of learning experiences/materials
  • access to business mentors and work experiences

I think this is kunskapsskolan meets CodeHS plus ImagineK12. What is my napkin missing?

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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I would say community service, sustainabilty and the arts needs to fit in there. These three areas help students see the value of others, not just as consumers or human resource planning, but as fellow citizens, friends and neighbors. We need more entrepreneurs who are long-term thinkers and see worth beyond a quarterly report.


Tom Vander Ark

Gavin, thanks, we agree. What's interesting is that just before outlining DIY High on a napkin with a local superintendent, we discussed an art-focused 6-12 school--a new mobile version that (like a flex blended Expeditionary Learning school) incorporated a bunch of field trips to museums and studios. Then we added, "wouldn't it be cool if these young artists were employable...or even better, created companies/products." There's a couple interesting ideas in there.

Mike Olson

I love it. What teenager doesn't want to be their own boss? Teaching entrepreneurship taps into a deep teenage nerve to be independent and I think is critical to embrace this inclination rather suppress it (what we typically do in schools).
What's missing? Maybe an articulation of the world and life skills and how to measure them at progressing levels of development. I think the list could start with:

Grant Lichtman

This is a great napkin outline! I would add one set of comments:
Learning is about acquiring both knowledge and wisdom and I believe there are three sources of that wisdom, which is actually much more important in the modern era than mere knowledge: "teachers" (possibly your "really good advisor, but I am not sure), peers, and experience. I have asked hundreds of educators in the last 6b months what the real value of a "school" is, and the universal response is "relationships and community". That is the value that cannot be replaced by a digital world and learning experience, at least not yet. So I would amplify this list that, in order to acquire wisdom, we need to more clearly articulate a "really good advisor", and also imagine how those relationships and experiences actually germinate and grow. Getting the knowledge to earn a merit badge will be the easy part!
Thanks for the provocation.


Tom Vander Ark

Agree. The 35 high schools worth visiting that I recently highlighted
all create sustained relationships and a powerful academic culture. The interesting thought experiment here is, could a high relationship/high agency model work. I think it may be the only solution for some kids.

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