Newsletter: Kicking Off the School Year With Meaning

September 2017 Newsletter

Empowering learners to think creatively, work collaboratively with others, and implement innovations.



Back-to-School at Henry Ford Academies


Enrollment is at an all-time high as our Henry Ford Academies kickoff the 2017-2018 school year!
Over the summer, our dedicated school leaders and staff members worked to ensure that our more than 1,900 students experience school as something that is meaningful, culturally relevant and focused on deeper learning.




Using Design Thinking to Strengthen School Culture

In San Antonio, we worked with Henry Ford Academy: Alameda School for Art + Design 9th-12th grade students, the staff and community members to kick off the school
year in a new way.

Over the course of two days, teams participated in activities to create connections and design a way to strengthen the culture across the school community. The learning experience culminated in pitch event, with teams presenting their creative solutions and business models for implementation. Students’ prototype solutions included a coffee cart that serves a meeting spot for casual conversations and also generates monetary support for after-school programs, and a mindfulness room to help students center themselves and focus on school.


Teacher Spotlight

Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies teacher Michael Payne was recently featured in a series about under-30 changemakers doing great work with youth. “What I do is try to use the math in real issues that kids may be facing,” says Michael. Read the article.

Photo Credit: Nick Hagen for Model D



Feedback from an HFLI Design Thinking Workshop Participant

Jim Boen of Bend-La Pine Schools in Oregon (right) and two colleagues attended an HFLI Design Thinking workshop this summer.

Back at home, Jim reports “We used the Rapid Design Cycle (after some introduction and training on the Design Thinking Process) at our school district’s leadership kick-off a few weeks ago. This “kick-off” included not only administrators from each of our schools, but also groups of teacher/leaders from each of these schools, as well as many other district support staff. This PD was well received and many intend on translating what they have learned into work they will be doing within their entire school this coming year.

Overall, it was a great start to our school year and we’re excited about the role Design Thinking might transform how we view and provide education to our students this year. Thank you all for the training this summer!”

97% of educators who participated in one of four HFLI open enrollment workshops this summer would recommend the experience to a colleague.

Contact us at to learn more about providing an immersive learning experience at your site.


New Digital STEAM Curriculum

Educators, put the power of deeper learning in your students’ hands! The new Ford STEAM Lab digital curriculum can be used in-school or out-of-school to help middle school students learn and apply design thinking, develop a mobile app prototype, create a business plan, and pitch their ideas.

Learn how we used Ford STEAM Lab at our summer camps to empower teens to see their future in exciting new ways. Read our post.




Join us at the 2017 Detroit Design Festival Youth Day on September 30th!

At HFLI’s Innovation Station, kids 5-13 will test their imagination and problem solving skills in a pair of quick and creative mobility-themed challenges. It’s a fun, hands-on introduction to the role of design in moving us forward – or keeping us afloat. Register today! Spaces are limited.





Get Involved
(Left) Mentor Rachele Downs encourages youth as they develop mobile app prototypes and related business plans at one of two week-long HFLI Ford STEAM Lab Camps sponsored by Ford Motor Company Fund this summer. “I can so vividly remember how lost I was in high school, which makes it so rewarding to now help kids find new ways to succeed,” said Rachele.

Connections and collaborations are critical to finding new and better ways of learning, developing and sustaining our organizational capacity, and bringing fresh thinking to schools, communities and workplaces across the country. Learn how you can get involved.

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