The Innovate Curriculum: School-Based Design Thinking for Sustainable Futures

  • 2021

  • Social Impact

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Innovate is a sustainability-focused curriculum for school-aged changemakers. Innovate teaches young people how to use design thinking and systems-level innovation to tackle the biggest challenges of society. Students create solutions that work for their local school community, but have the potential to scale for global impact.

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  • The world is in a transitional period. It faces major sustainability challenges already being felt in people's day-to-day lives. Education is critical to how society responds. School systems are hungry to adapt their learning to recognise changing needs of society, environment and the fourth industrial revolution - but they don't always know how, and often lack the resources - particularly in communities experiencing vulnerability. So how do we give young people tools, mindsets and inspiration to accelerate their role as as tomorrow's leaders, change makers and disruptors, ready and empowered to design a sustainable future - irrespective of socioeconomic context?

  • Innovate is more than a curriculum: it's a pedagogy system. It teaches young people (aged 12+) how to have impact on complex sustainability challenges using design thinking. "Innovate" helps them zoom into the human experiences/motivations underlying their sustainability challenge, and zoom out to understand the wider system. Through a combination of human-centred design and systems thinking, groups of learners research their issue, ideate locally implementable, globally scaleable solutions, and prototype, pitch and deliver the highest potential one. Innovate adapts to any sustainability challenge with content from the frontiers of public good design, engaging and empowering students and educators alike.

  • The first implementation of the Innovate Curriculum was co-designed with ACT Government and piloted in early 2021 by a Canberra school. It received strong teacher and student engagement, inspiring powerful thinking on the topic of sustainable transport. The Innovate curriculum's Sustainable Transport implementation will be rolled out to a broader range of schools shortly is available under subsidised/ pro bono models for schools in need in developed/developing countries. The curriculum was inspired by a previous, multi-award-winning curriculum which we co-developed with ACT Government, that focused on healthy behaviours; and by our experience adapting design thinking education for disadvantaged USA communities.

  • The curriculum is supported by detailed lesson plans, guides and materials for teachers, to enable them to teach the curriculum in person or remotely. It has been created to span both humanities and STEM dimensions - for example, the anthropology of transport use as well as learning how to calculate emissions impacts quantitatively - crossing disciplines. It maps clearly to the Australian Curriculum, creating clarity and context for educators, and adapts easily to other curricula with support from the Ed Institute team. In this way, we ensure that it is easily integrated into school priorities. The curriculum has been designed to be student led. Educators teach theory, but then become facilitators of hands-on practice, with our guides and tools ensuring that students are empowered to make change for good and own their sustainability solution.