Student-Centered Design Focused Learning at a Student-Led School

Community. Student voice. Opportunity. Accountability for learning. 

When speaking with students at One Stone High School in Boise, Idaho, these are just a few of the words I heard frequently when they described what their school is like. Here are several One Stone students sharing their thoughts on what sets their school apart:


The One Stone Story

One Stone is a student-led and directed nonprofit high school that opened its doors in 2016. The high school is based on a successful afterschool program where students used design thinking to providing marketing services to local companies and serve the community. The program focuses on empowering students to learn and practice 21st-century skills through experiential service, innovative initiatives and social entrepreneurship.

At the project-based high school, the work is rooted in design thinking, a creative problem solving and innovation discovery process developed at Stanford University’s At One Stone, they talk about “51ing it,” which refers the fact that it might take more than 50 iterations to get a design right.

The school opened in the fall and had to move a couple times because the remodeled office building wasn’t ready for them

So what’s working at One Stone? The adult educators associated with the program shared their thoughts as well:

“The simple answer is everything. But if you look at the environment, you look at the culture, look at the expectation that these kids are putting together for themselves about their life and their purpose, it’s a pretty amazing thing.” ~ Roger

“It’s about students owning their learning. Specifically, they are tapping into their passions and going deep in that area.” ~ Blossom

“It’s one of the first places that has cracked the code with true, genuine student leadership and engagement. The students are running the show here and they set the bar really high for themselves.” ~ Jamie

Disrupt For Good

“Disrupt For Good” is the reoccurring slogan at One Stone, and refers to improving the status quo for lasting change. In addition to the high school, there are three other platforms dedicated to doing this:

  • Project Good: This is the student-led and directed experiential service program that provides an opportunity for a direct connection to the community.
  • Two Birds: A student-led creative services agency that provides real-world experience for students interested in learning about design, marketing and social entrepreneurship by providing affordable creative services to social entrepreneurs, start-ups and other nonprofits.
  • Solution Lab: Organizations, foundations, existing businesses and start-ups can engage a team of One Stone students in design thinking a solution, business idea or a revolutionary product.

Sound interesting? One Stone is currently accepting applications for intrepid sophomore and junior students to join One Stone’s rigorous, student-centered learning experience this fall.

Stay tuned for a great set of interviews with students on the One Stone board. It’s the best example of a student-led organization we’ve ever seen.

For more, see:

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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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