A Zoom Reunion

I’m so grateful to have gone to a school that places such deep value in creating community.

The MVPS class of 2017 was a special one to say the least. We had a mix of very different people and had traditional different groups, but at the end of the day, we were always there for each other and were extremely collaborative. A great example of this is how we’d create group study guides with 20+ people on them even from across different class periods.

We also created a group chat for our entire grade, and to this day we still have random chats on that channel from time to time. Sure we’ve had a few people leave the chat since graduation, and there are a good number of people that keep the chat on mute, but all in all the fact that we still have 66/78 people on the chat and at least a good portion still respond is truly amazing to me.

Today we decided to have a Zoom video chat reunion, cus why not?! We had a solid turn out of around 15 considering this was organized only last night. It was really great to catch up with people, especially some of whom I’m not sure if I’ve talked to since graduation. We had a good time talking about what everyone’s up to, what we’re studying, how we’re spending our time social-distancing, etc.

I appreciate that my former classmates still care enough about the bonds we made back then to want to check in every now and then, especially in times like these where community is vital to sanity. I guess it goes to show the strongest communities can stay together even when spread apart.

Glad It’s With Me

“What’s the most random thing in your house that you’re really grateful for having right now? Why?” 

For me I’m super grateful for this dinky little whiteboard I got from a store called “Wonderland” I found while walking back from classes one day. It’s purple, the magnets already broke, and it has the illustrated ABC’s on the back of it and I love it!

I’ve always been a kinesthetic and visual learner. I’m the kid who likes to stand and move around while working and all of my notes include mind maps and lots of arrows. Once, freshman year of high school, I even brought my own giant whiteboard from home into school so I could use it to outline my essay during our world history midterm exam. I find that whiteboards make it easier for me to brainstorm all of my thoughts on a topic and then use lines, arrows, and circles to visually/physically be able to make all sorts of connections. It’s helped my writing tremendously, so now I use whiteboards as a way to start my brainstorm process for pretty much every assignment I do that requires critical and creative thinking.

I love whiteboards so much that at home I now have a whiteboard wall, a whiteboard desk, a giant whiteboard hanging on a wall and a smaller whiteboard on top of my desk. I use them for everything from drawing out gymnastics routines to outlining essays to just a place to do scratch work.

I lasted about a week in New Zealand before deciding I had to buy a whiteboard to use while here. (Though I did have 2 of my “homemade whiteboard” – a sheet of printer paper in a clear sleeve – they just weren’t cutting it alone. ) And now being stuck inside, I’m especially grateful for this dinky little whiteboard as I’ve already gotten so much use out of it while having this time to brainstorm new ideas and get ahead on assignments.

What random thing are you grateful for having around right now?

My Opinion on Online Classes

Online classes aren’t really a new thing, yet they seem to still get perceived as new which is odd to me. I officially got registered for the online version of a required CS class today and as I was walking with an upperclassman she asked me, “As a student with a passion for learner-centered education, I’m curious about your opinion on online classes.”

I guess this title is a bit of a misnomer because in actuality I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other about online courses.

I use to very strongly be against them, but seeing as today I signed up for my 3rd ever online class, I realized that opinion clearly changed and now is more neutral.

I was against online classes because the depth of learning isn’t as powerful in an online class. I mean if you ask most students they’ll flat out say online courses are easier- that was at least a factor to my reasoning to register. Online classes may be interactive some, but the material is set and rigid and pretty surface level since there are no conversations where deeper questions can be posed and explored. The material is all given to you up front and you can finish as quickly as you would like/are able to; there is no “well the class seemed really interested on this topic so we pivoted the schedule to do a whole project unit where we came up with plans and prototypes and pitched to board members…”

You don’t sign up for an online course because of the content. I signed up for CS online course because the in-person course happened at a time I didn’t particularly like with the rest of my schedule. It meant I would have to rush from CS class across campus to Marta twice a week all semester and then uber to the gym to still be a bit late to coaching the practices I help with.

That’s really the big plus I see about online courses: time and location flexibility. That’s the reason I’ve now signed up for three different online classes since high school. It was always an issue of scheduling where I needed to take a class but didn’t have room in my busy schedule and the online option ended up being the perfect compromise.

So from the perspective of a student trying to get a credit out of the way and get a decent grade while doing other things, online classes are great. However, when I think about the quality of learning happening in most online classes, I find it to be sub-par.

It’s pretty easy to cut corners in online classes, and when you’re already not interested in the topic and just taking the course for credit sake, there’s little motivation to not want to just “get through it” as fast as possible.

Furthermore, I believe that a huge part of learning revolves around the social interactions and relationships built during the learning process. It’s really hard to successfully achieve those relationships in an online environment. Again, partially because there’s no real incentive to strive for that deeper level of learning. I consider myself to be an intrinsically motivated learner and a pretty good student, (yes, I believe those are different thing, but that is a different conversation), and even I don’t find myself caring to make the extra effort in an online course to really make it a remarkable learning experience; I just want the credit on my own time.

Obviously, this is all my own personal opinion, and some kids may, in fact, make that extra effort, though in my experience few do.

As I told the friend who asked me about my opinion, thus inspiring this post tonight, I believe that online courses are still a work in progress. I don’t have a strong opinion yet because I see the potential in them to be a great learning tool, though at this point I think they are just a great tool for the traditional system where learning has a more cut and dry vibe. The flexible time and space component to online courses is learner-centered in nature, though the context, course material, and assessment structure is still very much not.

Library Chats

Every now and then everyone just needs to release a good rant. Surprisingly, this time I wasn’t the one doing the ranting.
It’s important for people of all ages to have safe spaces to talk, and one of the nice things about Capon is that we often end each night with some of the older kids just chilling and talking in the library for an hour. It’s a great time to not only catch up with the details of people’s lives over the past year (past just the typical “Ya life’s been good.”) but also for people to talk about things with people probably not directly involved with anything you may be dealing with.
We all have known each other since birth, and yet most of us know at most 2 of anyone else’s friends outside of Capon. It’s kind of weird in a nice way because it’s a medium between talking to your closest friends and yet practically strangers at the same time; truly the best of both worlds when it comes to chatting.
I’ve always been fortunate enough to have really good friends I believe I could trust with practically anything; however, not all teens are as fortunate. A lot of kids I know don’t truly trust their friends or barely consider themselves to have one best friend they can maybe speak completely honestly with. It’s a sad truth of the world, so I’m glad that places like Capon or even other sleep away camps can have this impact on kids. This is one of the reasons I think sending kids to sleep-away camp is one of the best things a parent can do; it’s amazing how close you can get to people in just a week maybe annually maybe not, but either way camps can often create a needed safe space for people to feel like they can share without judgement.

Not Ready to Leave k-12

I’m currently in Baltimore with my great grandma who can not remember her wifi password, so it seems that I may not be able to blog the rest of the week after tonight so hopefully this will be Clz-q9bXIAAsBe_.jpggood…

The last two days I have spent college touring at 3 different schools, and the process has been both fun, tiring, inspiring, and a tad frustrating. What I’ve realized is just how amazing my high school experiance has been.

I’ve gotten to work on real world projects with business leaders; I’ve gotten to learn how to use tools most barely get to use in college at all; I’ve gotten to help shape my own learning journey immensely; I’ve gotten to travel around the country to explore new communities; I’ve gotten to lead my own research projects and even speak at multiple conferences due to my work. I’ve gotten to do a lot of things that most colleges try to pitch to you to get excited about, and talk about these things as something you may get to do eventually and should really look forward to learning more about the possibilities.

I don’t need to be pitched to about why these experiences and resources are great, I’ve already been sold on the fact that education is changing and that real world experiences are what we need to be challenges with; I’ve known and been living this life for the past 3 years… If I’m doing project work like this now, why can’t I continue it in college, why must I wait for a potential future?

What frustrates me most about the college process is that I don’t want to start over my education journey which is what it kind of feels like is the only option, because I haven’t been able to find a single school yet that offers the opportunities I’ve been given due to being a member of the Innovation Diploma.

I want a school that has renovated spaces that are flexible, hands-on, and collaboration centered. I want a school that has a maker space where I can learn how to use tools, and have the freedom to try designing my own ideas and bring them to life. I want a school that has a program(s) set up where I can continue to work with experts and visionaries in entrepreneurship, education, business, and community leadership. I want a school where I work alongside of my teachers in work and play to the extent of playing wacky card tournaments together. I want a school where I feel confident that I will continue to enhance my ability to associate, question, observe, network, and experiment. I want a school that gives me the freedom, support, and resources to wonder and wander on whatever learning path is best for my personal journey.

I love and value everything Mount Vernon has offered me, and I just want a school that allows me to continue to further my work and learning but at an even more advanced level. Is that so much to ask?

The more I research and visit colleges, the more it seems like k-12 education is actually way ahead of the game when it comes to 21st century learning, and yet it still has so much to improve on. Why is higher education so behind on 21st century learning?

Sure there are “innovative colleges,” and truthfully I’ve been intrigued by many schools in different ways, but most of them only offer a select amount of opportunities compared to my current school. In order to pick a school I have to choose between a maker space, or hackathon competitions, or 21st century buildings, or interdisciplinary classes. I want a school that says “yes and” to all of these things just like my high school.

Most students are ready to get out of high school as fast as possible. Some go as far as to count down the days until graduation, even just when they start freshman year. I however, am not ready to leave because I know what an insanely valuable experiance I’ve gotten due to the Innovation Diploma, MVIFI, and MVPS’ general design thinker culture that embraces new ideas and makes them happen fast.

I’m not ready to leave high school because, while I like schools and have many on my list that I’m interested in, I haven’t yet found a school that I truly believe will take all of my high school opportunities and experiences to the next level; which I feel like should say something about education…

Rooms as Learning Experiences

IMG_4511 IMG_4509 IMG_4510

(Pictures of the new MVPS playground on the Founders Campus)

Today I was doing an interview for our current ID design challenge about recycling with our head of school along side of some awesome 5th graders who proved to be very valuable to the conversation. I loved the fact that we made connections across divisions to come together on one common problem/challenge/opportunity.

During this interview we actually ended up on a topic I never would have expected to come up while talking about recycling and sustainability: our new preschool re-designed playground. It’s so cool (my partner and I later explored around the perimeter of the playground since it isn’t open quite yet), and interestingly enough, it’s quite sustainable as well since it was made by trees found on campus and is all about having fun in nature.

What interested me the most was the concept of how it is an always changing playground. Most playgrounds you go to our “static playgrounds” as our head of school said; their may be slides, tunnels, and  pipes, but they never change where they are or how they work, so often times kids get bored with them over time. With our new playground, kids are encouraged to make it their own and constantly change the way it looks. For example, one area I got really interested in was the area where there are tee-pee like things in the ground from a wooden pole and a few tree branches. The idea behind this aspect to the playground, is that students can take fallen tree branches and add to the structure to make new places to play in.

I wonder what school would be like if all classrooms were designed with this same concept in mind of being able to constantly change. What if classrooms were always being added to, arranged with new aspects to fit different classes and different projects? What if students had the ability to add and change the classroom environment? What if all rooms were specialized to fit what type of learning goes on in that classroom (I know we actually have a high school English class working on this idea with creating and english lab)? What if there was a school with a constantly rearranging layout? What if new “hideaway” spots were constantly being created and explored? What if classrooms themselves were a stand alone learning experience where there was always something new to learn simply by exploring in the room?

People Make the Difference


It was my first full day here Nerd Camp and it was pretty fantastic! The analogy we use here is that one day is the equivalent of a week of normal school, so as you can imagine, it was a pretty packed day.

We talked about the meaning of cryptography, set theory, modular arithmetic (including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and even division which is a lot harder because fractions don’t exist and not every equation is possible in division), and also some basic Euclidean algorithm stuff. Now even if you have no idea what most of that means, you can probably tell it was some intense math we were learning and this was just the beginning.

I absolutely love modular arithmetic and it is actually one of the main reasons why I took this course, so I’m trilled to start right off the back with working with in mods!

I also just love being around TIPsters in and out of the classroom. The joke is that we are always looking for loopholes, it’s just what we do. Smart kids generally like trying to figure out why stuff works and if it could work differently. In the classroom this means asking those questions that make the teacher think hard and try to figure out how to best explain. Today we had a whole conversation on what we now call box math because we were talking about the set of nothing and how that can be a set, so it’s like taking a box and putting another box inside of it with nothing in it.

Out of the class this means always asking for clarity on rules especially during games. Today I was playing ultimate frisbee for 2 hours during evening activities and we had to keep mixing up teams because one team would always manage to be stacked with really good players. Even during our meeting on night one with only 4th year students, there was a ton of questions being asked and there were multiple occasions were RCs or other staff members would say “That’s why I was never a TIPster” typically due to word choice mess ups with the occasional counting error. (After a while the questions got a little annoying, but it was still pretty amusing how people could come up with so many loop hole questions.)

When you’re in an environment with people that really want to learn and are willing to ask those deep and semi-“odd” questions, plus staff that are willing to foster those tangent discussions, then learning really is so much more enjoyable. It makes learning feel natural and like we really get more of a say as students as to what we learn about. The environment here is just fantastic and I can’t wait to keep up the learning tomorrow!



Wow this has been one awesome week!!!!! As the #dtk12chat often says #BOOMSHAKALAKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve had an amazing time at fuse15 getting to meet educators around the country and help coach them through the design challenge. Getting to see the ideas really come to life in today’s pitches was amazing! It was also really meaningful to get to work with these non-profit organizations, and you could tell how much our ideas meant to them.

I also really enjoyed my first experience with an un-conference. I wish I could have gone to even more of the conversations because they all sounded so interesting.

The first one I went to was lead by our MVPS college counselors and one of my teammates on Green Echo was actually the only non student in the room which was kind of cool. They shared with us their early prototype of infusing the DEEP process into the college process in order to help students discover what type of school they would like best rather than just knowing the names of a couple of big schools maybe from family or sports. The process was such a neat concept and all of the students in the room seemed to have a general agreement that it would be a super helpful process to go through so that we could really go to a college that’s just right for us.

The next session I went to was about the physical space needed for DT. However, the person that suggested this session had suggested it because she wanted to ask questions herself rather than lead the discussion, so instead some of us MVPS students ended up taking over as leaders for the session (seems like a common theme for me this week #hacktheworld). This session kind of bounced all over the place with people asking about our high school schedule, rest spaces (which lead us to talking about the ideas of a MV Cafe which seems to almost always come up with ID members), and even lower school DT.

There were a few really cool moments in this sessions for me. One moment was when we were asked about our ideal classroom (I think that was the question but I was actually having a side conversation with a few others when it was initially asked). The student that took the lead on this question started talking about his love of really nice textures like wood floors, and then he mentioned lots of window and all of the students jumped in to agree. We all LOVE WINDOWS!!!!!! Not only do they let in natural light, but also they can be used as a whiteboard surface!!!!!!!! It was actually a really funny moment because some of the people in the room kind of jumped because we all go so excited so quickly when someone mentioned windows!

Another cool moment was when we were asked about lower school design thinking and how the process could be used with younger kids. This moment was cool for me because it was a “we know more than we think we do” moment. All of the students in the room were at least rising sophomores and more of us were upper classmen, but we all were able to share a little about stories we’ve heard about DT happening on our lower school. We were also able to share tips about embracing the fun in the process and how kids that age can definitely brainstorm, tinker, and ideate but they may need more guidance so we believe the trick is to make sure they really understand the “any idea’s a good idea” and “fail-up” mindsets.

This moment showcased how clearly MVPS cross campus communication is at least decent since we were able to talk about the water challenge, mini library challenge, and makers club at the lower school. It also showcased how students can be “experts” about more than just high school stuff, because everyone has other connections and experiences that contribute to their knowledge on topics.

The last session was one I was leading about Innovation Diploma. Of all things the one question that I’m still racking my head on is, “How would you explain in 2 minutes design thinking to a 2nd grader? What key words would you use knowing they wouldn’t understand all of the DT language words?” There are definitely a lot of terms we use when talking about DT that not everyone understands, and it has been an empathy struggle for me personally sometimes because it is hard to gauge what people will or will not understand when it comes to word choice.

When we were asked this question non of us could give the actual 2 minute description, but we were able to pick out at least a few key words and phrases: human centered problem solving (the big one!), process, relationship building, lot’s of models (trying to not use “prototyping” and “iteration”), working past failed ideas, telling stories, and a few more I can’t quite recall. Anyway, for me this helped lead to one of my big take aways today which was that I can always be working to have a clearer way to quickly describe DT; it’s seems I’ve been in the situation more and more often where I’ve needed this quick, non-DT vocab heavy, explanation.

When the conference finally came to a close the energy and excitement in the room was fantastic! I loved how happy everyone was to have completed their first (for many) DT challenge and I was glad they all enjoyed MVPS so much. The wonder I have (and also said at the end of the day) is if next year we could successfully get students from other schools to come. This year we had those tickets available but no one took the bait, but maybe now people have a better idea of what design thinking is, they will bring students too! There were definitely a lot of “ooohs” when I said my wonder, so that’s always promising.

I also was so touched to have so many people that talked to me about wanting to communicate more with me about design thinking, and some even asked if I could talk to their students. When someone says “you were inspiring,” that’s more meaningful than any A or any number could ever be, and that’s what motivates me to keep learning and sharing my story every day. So thanks to everyone that helped make fuse15 possible: the d. team, coaches, and recruits, you were all what made the experience #BOOMSHAKALAKA !

Environment Change


I have a lot of work to do this weekend in preparation of the great day of torture that will be Monday. I have a quiz, project, or paper due in all but one of my 7 classes on Monday and I’m not looking forward to any of it.

Today my mom and I went to a bagel place to get a snack and work. This way we could get out of the house and be more focused with out the distractions you find in your own house. I thought this was really helpful.

Sometime a change in environment is exactly what you need to get your productive juices going. What if during school we had more days where we got out of the classroom and went to a different area on campus? Would this help students stay focused and engaged with the material they are working on?

Flexing DT Muscles


Today I got to work with the Wonder by Design team to help with the new high school building. It was cool that most of the team remembered me from past times we’ve met, and almost all of them asked about how my blog has been going which always makes me happy to hear. I also got to hear more about the awesome stuff Stanford does (specifically the d. School) which always makes me giddy with ideas.

To add to all of that, it was really fun to brainstorm with some other students about the future of Mount Vernon and it makes me so happy to know how much they are involving students in this process; I mean students are a large part of the population of users.

It has been especially nice to be a participant of a design challenge because I’ve been doing a lot of facilitating lately, and as much as I love that, it’s fun to flex my creative muscles in the process. Tomorrow I shall get to participate in another challenge because a the team of students that is going to Finland and Sweden this summer (lead by two ID members) is going to be running a flashlab for students at this conference with them. It is going to be a great opportunity and I’m a little jealous I can’t go. Tomorrow they are running their first prototype of the flashlab and I can’t wait to see what they have come up with.

I can’t believe it is only Wednesday, this week has just felt so busy, and I still have 2 quizzes, a test, and a mock trial, plus it is Mustang Rally on Friday which is like a carnival and field day combined!

This year is almost over and it seems like everyone is making that last push to cram some knowledge in our heads which is a little stressful, but hopefully we will finish strong. (I say as I am about to fall asleep typing and still have work to do…)