Faculty Attend Nueva Design Thinking Institute

July 17, 2023

Six members of the Belmont Day faculty kicked off the summer with a trip to the Bay Area to challenge and expand their ways of thinking around teaching innovation, design, and engineering. 

The team—Annie Fuerst, director of technology and innovation, Maggie Small, seventh grade science teacher, Vaniecia Skinner, fifth grade teacher, Emily Crawford, fourth grade teacher, Sandra Trentowsky, eighth grade science teacher, and Brittany Conroy, incoming innovation coach—attended the Nueva School’s Design Thinking Institute in late June. The institute guides educators to deepen their understanding of design thinking and further their teaching practice and curriculum development. 

Nueva’s approach to innovation and design work centers empathy,” said Fuerst, who led the team’s professional development experience. “During the week, we spent a lot of time learning about how to interview people, how to pinpoint needs, how to listen intently and design thoughtfully. This aligns with BDS’s approach to innovation, so it was really meaningful and impactful to spend time at a school whose program is fully built around this idea.”

The team spent part of the time working together to design projects and units for the upcoming school year. They also had time to work with breakout groups consisting of people in similar roles from other schools.

“All of us really enjoyed getting to hear how our peers at other schools were approaching this work and reflecting on how we can weave some of what we learned into our specific roles,” Fuerst said. “Spending a week with colleagues all dedicated to learning, exploring, and innovating was generative and inspiring. The institute emphasized the importance of a sense of playfulness and whimsy in design work, and we’re excited to see that spirit grow at BDS.”

Key also at the institute is thinking about how broadly innovation and design thinking can be integrated across a school’s learning experiences. 

“Design thinking isn’t something that just lives in a maker space or in STEAM classes,” Fuerst said. “While we developed lots of ideas that Brittany Conroy can’t wait to collaborate with teachers on in the IMPACT Lab, we also came away with plans to incorporate the design thinking mindset into humanities, advisory curriculum design, and even scheduling.”

This professional development was made possible by a generous gift to Belmont Day to further the science and innovation curriculum. This same gift helped fund the STEAM Expo held in May.

By John O'Neill, Director of Athletics |

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