Together with Leadership + Design as our partners, MFS is taking a different approach to strategic planning. Design thinking is a human-centered process that allows us to listen to the needs of our community, consider the direction in which our world is headed, and imagine the many ways in which the MFS mission can help us address the needs of our students. Design thinking relies heavily on divergent thinking and surfacing questions that open possibilities for our future. We don’t enter into this process having all the answers. In fact, we value the messy process of grappling with hard questions first, in order to arrive at creative solutions we may never have imagined at the start.
So far, our Strategic Planning Committee has met several times. We have interviewed students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni. In all of these conversations, we have deeply listened to the lived experiences in our school and are synthesizing the emerging themes. In January, we will begin to test and prototype some of the ideas rising to the top with our community, collect feedback, and fine-tune the strategic priorities that are emerging.
As we engage in design thinking, I am inspired by and committed to the ambiguity of the design process. The Design Squiggle below was developed by an individual at IDEO, a global design and innovation company. It illustrates that before we reach clarity (the straight line), it’s critical to first observe, embrace ambiguity, and think outside the box (the messy jumble). Only then can we truly discover our path forward. We are currently very much in the divergent thinking phase of our work and will converge on some key themes in the next few months. I look forward to keeping you posted on our journey.
Credit for the Design Squiggle (below): The Process of Design Squiggle by Damien Newman, thedesignsquiggle.com
Playing is Learning
Speaking of design thinking, we are currently engaged in a playground project that is using human-centered design as our core planning tool. After 23 years of service to the school, the play structures on the lower school playground are ready to be retired. We are taking this opportunity to step back and look at the current research and best practices in outdoor learning, so that the Quaker values and innovative curriculum reflected in our classrooms can extend to our outdoor play spaces as well.
Moorestown Friends School has partnered with Studio Ludo and Metcalfe Architecture & Design to dream up what the MFS playscape could look like. Lower school faculty and staff participated in a design workshop, reflecting on their favorite memories of play and highlighting their priorities for the playscape. We also conducted design sessions with students from Preschool through 4th grade (with a little help from our Middle School Robotics Club), inviting them to consider what adventures they would like to have while playing at school. From zip lines, to treehouses, to conversation corners, to rock climbing walls, there was no shortage of creative ideas from our students.
The playground working group will finalize design concepts in December and will continue planning in the spring. Construction will begin after Commencement in June 2020.
There is nothing more exciting in schools than those conversations--both in and out of the classroom--that challenge students and adults to think differently about learning. Over the course of this year, I'd like to invite you into some of the books that I'm reading, so that you, too, can participate in rich conversations about learning. In each Head's Perspective, the "Reading Corner" will feature one book that I'm currently reading.
Sitting at lunch in the DH/C recently, a teacher recommended the book Range, sharing powerful examples of how perhaps generalists hold the keys to future success. As young people in our country are specializing earlier and earlier in school and in extracurricular activities, I grow increasingly concerned that the perspectives and insights of the generalist are being lost in our culture. In addition, children are given less room to play, experiment, innovate, and grow in a way that encourages balance and overall well-being. Although there are certainly industries where specialists will always be needed, there are also countless fields where a broader understanding of diverse subjects and an ability to adapt and integrate will be critical.