After many months of pre-development work, WayFinders (an inter-disciplinary learning experience for middle and high school students) launched this past week.  Each day students arrive excited and leave exhausted.  One student said “that if school was like this he would love it.”

The day starts off in the Science and Math lab where students study concepts above their grade level.  They are asked to use their current knowledge to infer answers to geometry, trigonometry and soon structural engineering and architecture questions.  Students are exposed to concepts like refraction and diffusion by building water prisms made of glass. Optics and reflexivity is discussed then reinforced by making an infinity mirror.   These are not random topics.  Students are learning about the physics, chemistry and mathematics that underlies the afternoon’s design project.

After lunch, it’s into the design studio.  Students are immersed in the design process researching two sites in Cambridge – Jill Brown Rhone park and Galaxy park.  We received a grant from the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority designated for projects that enhance the built environment for the benefit of all residents, workers and visitors. So, unlike a school project – we have a real deliverable. 

Our project is composed of building two permanent signs that will be displayed at JBR and Galaxy Park.  These signs are far from ordinary.  Each will contain a physical / digital layer enabled by a cell phone.  Through this interface, audio, video, maps and potentially augmented reality enhanced information will be accessible greatly enriching the visitors experience.  The additional content almost brings the signs to life.

WayFinders is an extremely complex project requiring real design and engineering work.  We have brought on some amazing professionals to help lead this project.  The design work is lead by Daniel Solomon Koff (Principal Solomon Office, Adjunct Professor Olin College, Alumni of Harvard Graduate School of Design).  Amon Millner (Assistant Professor of Computing and Innovation Olin College of Engineering, co-inventor/co-founder: Scratch, Modkit, Fab Labs, MIT Media Arts and Science, PhD) is leading the technology development. This summer begins design with hopes of manufacturing and installing signs before year end.  The physical / digital interface development will hopefully begin in the Fall. 

If that’s not enough – every Tuesday and Thursday students can participate in an optional writing workshop to help them learn how to better express their thoughts. Each week wraps up with a design review where students present their work to a panel of interested parties. This is truly an interdisciplinary learning experience.

Ultimately we want to help students discover something that is meaningful to them that also serves the greater good (their purpose).  We believe that students who carry this sense of purpose into adulthood may also benefit in the long run. Research shows that adults who feel their lives have meaning and purpose are happier, more successful at work, and have stronger relationships.  

Our hope is to quickly expand beyond these two sites eventually creating a 10-12 site tour of Cambridge. We are in early discussions to expand into Boston. Our intent is to partner with local non-profits and schools to bring this curriculum to as many students as possible over the next three years. We need your help connecting with visionary individuals, corporations and foundations who are interested in cultivating the next generation of problem solvers. Get Involved, help us make this happen!

The WayFinders project has received initial funding from Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research and MIT IDM.  As well as in-kind support from Cambridge Pubic Library, Cambridge Community Foundation, Boston Properties and MIT Government and Community Relations. Corporations / Foundations interested in participating in this project should contact us directly.  This is a great way to share your history and identity with the community.

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Michael K. Dawson

Co-Founder, Chief Doer, Innovators For Purpose, Inc. Creative Doing - the act of changing or influencing with the intent of leaving a mark on the world...

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