This Silicon Valley High School Let Students Design Its New Campus

Posted September 14th 2016


via Fast Company

When the founding freshman class arrived at, a public design thinking-focused charter high school in Silicon Valley, in fall 2014, the students discovered that their classrooms had been left unfinished—on purpose. Their first assignment: Design the learning spaces. By the second week of school, after taking a field trip and conducting behavioral research, they were buying furniture. “Why would you solve a problem without knowing what people really need? It’s so intuitive,” says founder and executive director Ken Montgomery, a former high school English teacher with a policy analysis PhD from Stanford. “That’s one of the reasons that design thinking has resonated in education.”

The students didn’t know it at the time, but they would soon revisit that first assignment on a much grander scale. Back in May 2014, Montgomery and his team had impressed leaders at the Oracle Education Foundation, one of the technology giant’s philanthropic arms, during a daylong workshop organized by the foundation and led by a Stanford facilitator. Oracle broke ground on’s new 64,000-square foot campus last month, after months of design and development in partnership with employees, parents, students, and teachers. By next fall, the completed building will be ready to house 550 students and 30 faculty.

Oracle Education Foundation Director Colleen Cassity recalled Oracle co-CEO saying, “‘Everyone [in Washington, D.C.] talks about education, but I don’t see anybody doing anything. I want us to do something, and I want for our people to be involved.'” New models for education are popping up everywhere led by tech companies like Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Google and others, with the aim of empowering the next generation of innovators.