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Studio H: America’s First Design/Build High School Curriculum

It’s been a good year for Emily Pilloton, founder of social-good nonprofit Project H Design and author of the excellent Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People. A PopTech fellow and TEDGlobal speaker, the young designer has garnered significant attention and acclaim for her work. But rather than reveling in glory, earlier this year Pilloton moved the Project H headquarters to Bertie County, North Carolina – one of the poorest U.S. counties, with one in three children living below the poverty line – to start the country’s first design/build high school program, an ambitious effort to craft a long-term model for integrating design into the public education system.

This week marks the official launch of Studio H, the public school design/build curriculum Pilloton has been piloting for the past few months. The first class of 12 junior-year students from Bertie County’s public school system will work on hands-on creative projects that spark real-world community development.

By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and “dirt-under-your-fingernails” construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

Studio H clearly fills a much-needed void in the traditional public education curriculum. What will be interesting is to see how Pilloton reconciles the need to scale the project in order to make it impactful on a systemic level and the fact that its core premise, rooted in community, hinges on micro-localization. But if Pilloton’s track record is any indication, Project H might just figure it out.

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.


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