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"We moved from thinking of ourselves as designers to thinking of ourselves as design thinkers. We have a methodology that enables us to come up with a solution that nobody has before" - David Kelley 

East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy (EPAPA)


Students from EPAPA and Stanford play a game introducing engineering careers
Students from EPAPA and Stanford play a game introducing engineering careers

In fall 2006, a new school open its doors in East Palo Alto, California, with 22 ninth graders and two staff members. Determined to change the opportunity equation for themselves and other young people like them in their community, the students chose to call their new school the East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, as a reference to the transformative power of their education. In June 2010, that founding group of students became the first set of graduates, and all of the graduating seniors were admitted to four-year universities. 

Together, EPAPA and Stanford participate in an after-school mentorship program that combines STEM and design thinking. Stanford undergraduates and graduate students who enroll in the university course Educating Young STEM Thinkers make weekly visits to EPAPA, where they try out learning activities they have developed.

Utah Partnership

Utah State Office of Education


Utah educators create an empathy map as part of an energy conservation design challenge
Utah educators create an empathy map as part of an energy conservation design challenge

Together with the Utah State Office of Education, STEM has provided design thinking workshops to middle school students and educators from around the state of Utah. Through professional development trainings, STEM helps educators leverage the connections between the Common Core standards and design thinking practices and mindsets so they can create effective and engaging learning experiences for their students. Our workshops frequently feature educators and students working together in collaborative teams to solve design challenges relevant to the problems they encounter in their everyday lives. In addition, has worked to empower educator-experts in design thinking to develop curriculum units and share what they know, creating ripple effects in their own professional communities.

Museum of Natural Curiosity

The Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point features more than 400 interactive experiences that teach science, arts, history, and culture through a unique interdisciplinary approach to family learning. Children can uncover their innate sense of curiosity and use their imaginations freely throughout five interactive exhibit areas: Rainforest, Waterworks, Kidopolis, Children’s Discovery Garden, and Traveling Exhibits. The Museum of Natural Curiosity has partnered with STEM to host workshops and design challenges for Utah educators.

Stanford Teacher Education Program

The Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) of the Stanford Graduate School of Education aims to cultivate teacher leaders who share a set of core values that includes a commitment to social justice, an understanding of the strengths and needs of a diverse student population, and a dedication to equity and excellence for all students. The program takes an approach to teaching and learning that is sensitive to the family, community, and political contexts of education, focused on the needs and development of learners, and grounded in the study of subject matter that enables inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving.

STEP seeks to prepare and support teacher leaders working with diverse learners to achieve high intellectual, academic, and social standards by creating equitable and successful schools and classrooms. Desired outcomes for graduates include an understanding of teaching as intellectual work and as a caring profession; a depth of content knowledge and a repertoire of powerful pedagogical practices; and a view of teaching and of the role of education in society informed by appreciation of the socio-cultural contexts of education. The content and design of the program are organized to foster an understanding of and commitment to research, reflection and inquiry in the classroom; collaboration across individuals, institutions and communities; a blending of theory and practice; and the effective use of technology as a teaching and learning tool.

Bayside STEM Academy

The Bayside STEM Academy is a public middle school (grades 6-8) in the San Mateo Foster City School District. The school uniquely combines the focus of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with the innovative practices of design thinking, and it offers the district's middle school GATE cluster for qualifying students. The Bayside STEM Academy’s dual focus on STEM  and design thinking methodologies positions students and staff on an innovative academic path.

The Bayside STEM program is based in some ways on the design thinking model developed at Stanford University’s Design thinkers prototype, focus on end users, and test solutions. Design thinking changes the way people approach work, studies, and everyday issues. Design thinking is a much sought after approach in the business world, and is concurrently gaining traction across the nation in K-12 schools and higher education. It promotes innovation, collaboration, empathy, prototyping, and user-tested solutions.

Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET)

The work of the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) at the Stanford Graduate School of Education is focused on improving the quality of instruction in our nation’s schools. Demographic and income factors aside, the most important factor in student achievement is the quality of their teachers. CSET’s work focuses on creating professional-development programs based in the strategies we know make a difference for children, building instructional capacity, and developing online resources to support this work.