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“ The promise of community schools is in how they prioritize the education and enrichment of vulnerable students and how they integrate services with systems of governance, professional support, and ongoing community-level dialogue."

- Learning Policy Institute



"Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving and the backbone of our work at It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world."




Catalyst's mission is to create learning communities that bring out the strengths of all children and disrupt the systems that perpetuate educational and economic disparities by engaging the stakeholders of the particular community to provide the resources their youth need to become successful adults. 


Research on Community Schools, indicates that when children feel seen, heard and safe, they are open to learning and growing. Catalyst Micro Community Schools propose to do this work by hiring teachers that embody the local community, understand the cultural demands of the families, providing wrap around services with community partners, personalizing academics, empowering students by offering opportunities to create demonstration of learning that gives them a hands up on college and work applications and bringing the community together to serve its own. 

Informed by the work of Sarah Boisvert of the Fab Lab Hub at MIT, Catalyst believes that the New Collar Workforce will be in digital fabrication skills like 3D Printing, CAD design, robotics, AR/VR, design thinking, problem-solving, &more. In interviews with 200 U.S. manufacturers, Sarah started to see that a paradigm shift was needed to bring back well-paying, engaging manufacturing careers for middle class Americans.  We offer students Digital Badges for New Collar Jobs  to provide students with options of their future. 


Another Catalyst utilizes is Human Centered Design Thinking, an approach to learning that focuses on developing creative confidence, a bias to action, and active problem solving.   Inspired by the research at Stanford's dSchool K12 Lab, and IDEO, a global design and innovation company,  Catalyst  embeds design thinking into all learning experiences, professional development, and in designing organizational structures. We believe that the open access to content that the internet provides, has created an opportunity for young people to differentiate themselves by noticing problems that need solutions, understanding the needs of a specific group of people, having confidence to fail forward and effectively communicating to effect change. Always with the human experience at the core. 

Catalyst Learning Experience Designers have extensive experience in using design to communicate and maker-centered tools to create projects where young learners are able to have real world impact, while accessing academic standards and developing themselves as confident creative, empathetic change makers. 

Design Thinking is a framework that requires many nuanced strategies and Catalyst Coaches embody this mindset in their work and lives. The following are the broad stroke stages. 


Systems Awareness - In order to develop solutions to problems, innovators need to recognize needs. Coaches work with students to build the sensitivity needed to recognize human needs, mine the hidden needs from a client request, and see the world through new glasses of an innovator. 


Empathy -  IDEO defines empathy as “deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for”. It involves learning about the difficulties people face, as well as uncovering their latent needs and desires in order to explain their behaviors. To do so, students and coaches need to have an understanding of the people’s environment, as well as their roles in and interactions with their environment.


Ideation - Creative confidence is built through playful, safe brainstorming, idea generation parties. Ideation students learn to use tools for generating “gazillion” ideas that learn that no one person is more creative than another but rather has had more experience doing this work. 


Prototyping - The role of the prototyping phase is to communicate ideas. It is not the end of the project or a goal in it of itself. In this phase, different disciplines are interwoven to achieve the most effective way to learn more about the people we are designing for and their interaction with our innovation. 


Testing/Presentation/Documentation/Reflection - The phase where communication, writing and metacognition skills are practiced to develop self awareness, demonstration of learning and digital portfolios. 

Human Centered Design aims to flatten opportunity gaps for all human strata including neurological differences. Twice - Exceptional students have tremendous gifts as innovators like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and other giants and yet, their exceptional neurological differences are not supported in traditional schools and pathologized as a deficit rather than encouraged as a strength. 

Maker-Centered Learning

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