Design Works High School in Brooklyn


Design Works High School was developed with input from experts at Pratt Institute to offer students hands-on projects that address real problems in their communities and support for in-demand career pathways such as art equity, tech equity, and housing equity.

Hunter and her team traveled throughout New York City in search of prospective students for DeWitt Wilson High School before the new academic year started, stopping by block parties, fairs, and events across District 13–an area covering Brooklyn Heights and Clinton Hill.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking can quickly move people toward solutions, making a valuable approach in any number of settings. Its step-by-step process encourages innovation without compromising exploration possibilities or mistakes; its collaborative nature enables individuals to work together on ideas for innovative solutions that improve people’s lives; its human-centric creative process has even been applied to monuments, bridges, automobiles, subway systems, and much more.

Design thinking begins by exploring problems from various perspectives – this process is known as “detailed empathy.” To conduct it effectively, meet and interview multiple stakeholders – such as end-users of your product or service – to gain new insight into their experience of it all. Be wary of your preconceptions while listening open-mindedly, as this step can prove challenging but essential in developing meaningful solutions.

At this stage, it can also be beneficial to implement a round-robin brainstorming exercise. This exercise allows everyone to provide input quickly while contributing a large number of ideas in a short amount of time – the goal is open-minded thinking and creativity.

Once you understand a problem, the next step should be generating solutions. Here’s where creativity truly shines: allow people to come up with as many ideas as they possibly can, even if some seem unrealistic; this is how real creative solutions will emerge and enhance people’s lives.

Step two is to test your solution on actual users of your product or service, ask for feedback, and consider any potential challenges they might present. At this stage, iterating and making necessary modifications until finding the optimal solution for users has been accomplished.

Once your solution has been thoroughly evaluated, it’s time to implement it. Prototypes will allow you to gauge whether or not it will work effectively and accurately.

What is the School’s Purpose?

This school aims to be an environment in which students can explore design directly. They’ll work in studios, visit sites, sketch campus buildings, and meet with professors and graduate students from top design schools – an immersive design learning experience! Open to high schoolers of all backgrounds and professional interests alike – this academy gives high schoolers a great chance to build portfolios for college applications!

The inaugural class at a new school in downtown Brooklyn started classes this month after a years-long collaboration between Bank Street College of Education and Pratt Institute as part of New York City’s Imagine NYC Schools initiative. It seeks to address what its founders see as insufficient emphasis placed on design and equity within public education systems.

Bank Street and Pratt collaborated in creating their school by gathering together an expert team in teaching and learning, along with local leaders, educators, parents, and others who were directly involved in brainstorming sessions at several community events. The final school model combines Pratt’s artistic talent with Bank Street’s learner-centric education methodology.

At this school, students benefit from real-world experiences through local public and private partnerships that give them exposure to real-life scenarios that allow them to gain the knowledge needed to become changemakers for social justice. Students also have the choice between three specialty tracks that align their studies with their passions and career goals.

Students will take part in design challenges centered around local issues they will need to solve, which require collaboration, criticism, defense, and revision as they proceed through the school’s design process. They will graduate prepared to pursue their passions further in college courses or creative careers and social justice leadership roles.

The school’s intimate setting will ensure that every student feels known and can make it their own. Students can translate classroom learning to local real-world settings through industry, community, and university partnerships that facilitate internships and apprenticeships.

What is the School’s Vision?

Design Works High School opened on September 7 after years of collaboration between Pratt Institute and Bank Street College of Education. This innovative public school blends design thinking with social justice for an immersive educational experience that empowers its students to make change happen within their communities.

At our school, our aim is for students to cultivate creativity and communication skills that will enable them to thrive both professionally and personally. Students will gain real-world experience through local public and private partnerships – whether working with an architect to find equitable ways of expanding affordable housing in their neighborhood or joining NYU Steinhardt students who use dance to address trauma and help heal communities.

Students will experience deep personal connections and receive help in making decisions that will shape both their lives and that of our world. Students will also be empowered to create their learning opportunities using participatory practice – an engaging community-centric tactic whereby both students and residents come together to solve community-wide problems.

Due to these partnerships and the school’s emphasis on social justice, students will develop the confidence necessary to become creative thinkers who take an active part in shaping their educational experience. Students will see themselves as civic participants, critical readers, proactive problem solvers, original thinkers, generous collaborators, and lifelong learners.

Students will have three “design times” each week when they can focus on creating instead of taking traditional classes, giving them space and time to develop projects that can serve as portfolio pieces for college admissions or job interviews. Students can also engage in extra-curricular activities, like joining existing clubs at school or proposing their ideas for new clubs.

The school will offer a selection of Advanced Placement courses for qualified students. In addition, College Now courses that can earn college credit will also be provided at this location. Furthermore, local organizations will partner with this school to provide internship and apprenticeship opportunities.

What is the School’s Mission?

Educators should seek input from all members of their school community when creating a mission statement. While it can be easy for administrators, teachers, and parents to become mired in their opinions of what should constitute the school’s mission statement, opening up discussion and feedback will result in better buy-in from stakeholders across all sectors. It will also enable educators to hear what students — current or past — care deeply about and incorporate this passion into daily operations at school.

Design Works High School (DWHS) is an example of a school living up to its mission statement. Established by Bank Street College of Education and Pratt Institute, it opened this fall in downtown Brooklyn with 90 ninth-graders enrolled. Through DWHS’ mission-driven education model, it aims to prepare its students as socially aware design professionals who solve real issues in their communities and foster more equitable environments for everyone.

Students will achieve this through hands-on, collaborative projects that engage them in real-life experiences. Students will develop project management skills while working with industry and community partners as they gain internships or apprenticeships through Bank Street’s developmental-interaction framework – giving students authentic learning experiences tied directly back into their real lives – focusing on either art equity, tech equity, or housing equity career tracks as they acquire these new abilities.

Core values at our school include creating a safe and supportive community, engaging in rigorous academic challenges, and planning for future success. These goals will be implemented in the classroom through student-centric learning practices and an emphasis on taking personal responsibility for one’s growth. Students will develop into creative thinkers, critical readers, proactive problem solvers, original thinkers, and generous collaborators while becoming lifelong learners. To meet these goals, the school offers its students a selection of extracurricular and after-school activities at no or low cost; these may include Advanced Placement courses, college preparation programs from Pratt and its partners, after-school clubs that they may opt into, and many others.