Archives for category: Cool Schools

Here’s a cool new school that just opened its doors in New York: Quest to Learn, the brainchild of Katie Salen, a games designer and professor of design and technology at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. Grounded in the latest research on learning, video games and digital media, the school opened its doors to 6th graders this week for the first time.

The school day is divided into four 90-minute blocks organized into domains:

1. Codeworlds – a combination of Math and English

2 . Being, Space and Place – English and social studies

3. The Way Things Work -math and science

4. Sports for the Mind – game design and digital literature

According to Q2L’s website: “Quest supports a dynamic curriculum that uses the underlying design principles of games to create highly immersive, game-like learning experiences for students. Games and other forms of digital media also model the complexity and promise of “systems.” Understanding and accounting for this complexity is a fundamental literacy of the 21st century.”

One of the underlying principles is game-based learning, whereby students are able to take on the identities and behaviours of explorers, mathematicians, historians, writers and evolutionary biologists as they work through the curriculum. For example, one unit of The Way Things Work challenges students to get into the minds of scientists devising a pathway for a beam of light to reach a target. This lesson touches on math, optics, creative thinking and teamwork.  Sounds like the perfect antidote to our mass education model which asks students to simply copy and paste into their brains.


Spotted this on John Thackara’s consistently enjoyable and thought-provoking Doors Of Perception newsletter: sounds like a very interesting cross-disciplinary project.

AALTO UNIVERSITY: FOR LIFE, OR UNDECIDED? (TEXT OF TALK) A major new university is to be named after the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto. Aalto University, which opens in 2010, is the result of a merger between the Helsinki School of Economics (Finland’s top business school, with 4,000 students); the University of Art and Design (one of Europe’s top design and art schools, with 2,000 students); and Helsinki University of Technology (the main technical university, including the country’s principal architecture school, with 15,000 students). Four hundred people are already busy preparing the new university, but I was asked to speak at symposium in Helsinki called “Beyond Tomorrow” about what the new university should do, and be. The University has stated that it will will “make a positive contribution to Finnish society, technology, economy, art, art and design, and support the welfare of both humans and the environment”. I proposed that Aalto University should stand for something more precise than this: an unconditional respect for life, and for the conditions that support life. Read more at:

Another interesting educational institution that I hadn’t heard of until this week: the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. I met Cinzia Scaffidi, of Slow Food, at a meeting on plant science and crop diversity in Tunis this week, and she told me about this unique school which was founded in 2003. “Food is the meeting point of many disciplines,” she said. The objective is to create an international research and training center, working to renew farming methods, protect biodiversity and maintain an organic relationship between gastronomy and agricultural science.

I like the link-in this provides to the current debate in the U.S. about how to re-think liberal arts programmes, where there is a strong focus on bringing in areas like mapping urban food systems.