NuVu is a full-time innovation school for middle and high school students. NuVu’s pedagogy is based on the architectural Studio model and geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. We teach students how to navigate the messiness of the creative process, from inception to completion by prototyping and testing.
No Courses: Instead, we have studios. Around 12 students work closely with their 2 Coaches on solving big (and small) open-ended problems.
No Subjects: Instead, everything is fused together. Students find themselves moving between a studio that requires them to design a telepresence robot to another that requires them to re-imagine Boston with a cable car system.
No Classrooms: Instead, we have an open space that changes all the time to adapt to the needs of every studio.
No One-Hour Schedule: Instead, students spend two weeks from 9am-3pm solving one problem.
No Grades: Instead, we have portfolios that document students' design decisions and show their final products.
NuVu was founded in 2010 in Cambridge, MA by PhDs and Graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). For the last six years, NuVu has been providing an innovation-focused experience for students, ages 11-18. NuVu has reached over 3,000 students worldwide, and created and energized a generation of entrepreneurs, designers, makers and inventors. NuVu forms unique partnerships with schools in the public, private, charter, and international sectors that allow students to enroll full-time at NuVu for a trimester or semester. NuVu also enrolls long-term students who spend one to four years full-time at NuVu completing their middle or high school years.
NuVu’s pedagogy is informed by the architectural design Studio where a coach guides students in hands-on problem-solving to solve complex, comprehensive problems. The Studio model uses exercises to build skills and integrates students’ knowledge in a final project. Within each multidisciplinary Studio, students explore problems rigorously by focusing on one project for two weeks. A Studio Coach mentors students to develop their project through an iterative process over the course of the Studio. Students confront the small and large contexts within problems as they are exposed to complex, ‘messy’ situations. The NuVu Team continuously evaluates students through deskcrits and final reviews.
Taught within the multidisciplinary framework of the design Studio rather than traditional subjects, NuVu students acquire a highly personalized understanding of the world and how they relate to it and can fully participate in it. They develop multiple solutions to problems and learn the importance of moving from one solution to the next, combining, exploring and thinking of the possibilities. They also learn how to change their perspective on an issue quickly. They learn that solutions depend on perspective, and only by understanding an issue from multiple perspectives can they fully explore the terrain of possibilities.
The iterative process, or process of refining an idea, product or solution, in the design studio is intended to provide students with continual feedback from NuVu Coaches and Staff on performance as well as product. NuVu students also experience working in an intense, feedback-rich environment that provides them with information and support for continuous self-evaluation, reflection, and improvement.
NuVu challenges students to learn in new ways: analytical thinkers are inspired to explore their creative selves, while creative students expand their capacity to think and learn analytically. NuVu capitalizes on the immense resources of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to focus on hands-on problem solving, encourage an inventive culture, promote peer teaching and learning, and cultivate students’ curiosity.
Instead of grading, NuVu uses a portfolio-based assessment. A portfolio serves as a compilation of student work done at NuVu over the course of the term, semester or full year and is meant to show the student's growth over time and development of key academic and life skills (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, research, quantitative reasoning and analysis). Each NuVu student is provided with their own online profile on NuVu's online platform where they document and present their work. At frequent periods during the term, NuVu's team works with the student to assess how far the student has developed since the beginning of the term. The portfolio-based assessment helps make learning and assessment relevant to students' lives.
Students register for a specific studio such as “Balloon Mapping”, “Music and the City”, or “Future of Global Warming” of which there will be approximately 10 students, one Coach and an Assistant Coach. The Coach begins by providing a general overview of a problem to the students, an ambiguous real-world issue with an open-ended problem. With the Coach’s help each student frames the problem from his/her perspective and enters into an iterative development process supported by the studio team of students and advisors.
Students are provided with access to outside resources – leading thinkers and experts – to whom they present their framework and receive feedback. Students document their process and progress, continually reviewing it with the Coach. They set parameters, synthesize, and continue refining, refining, refining. NuVu trains students to apply multiple perspectives to challenge and refine ideas over and over again until it becomes a natural learning process.
NuVu-Cambridge is housed near the MIT campus and provides access to many MIT resources and experts. NuVu connects students to exciting research projects at MIT and Harvard and to PhD students who are passionate learners and teachers.
Topics, not Subjects
NuVu’s structure is based on 2-week long Studios that take on topics related to the set theme for the Term, such as “City of the Future” or “Science Fiction.” These intensive Studios begin by identifying an issue or point of inspiration, defining the problem, and then engaging in an iterative process toward a solution.
Each Studio runs for 2 weeks, culminating in a final review where external reviewers (professors, practitioners, entrepreneurs and designers) are invited to evaluate students’ work. During the Studio period, students and coaches work together at NuVu from 9am to 3pm with the option to stay until 5pm (which happens frequently, especially before the final review).
Each Term runs for 11 weeks. Each Term contains 8 or 12 Studios with a range of topics that fall under one broad theme (“City of the Future,” “Science Fiction,” “Smarter Planet,” “Storytelling,” etc.). Each student enrolls in a sequence of 4 Studios. The Term culminates in a final public exhibit where students showcase their projects from the Term.
One Year at NuVu runs 3 Terms. Enrollment for the entire Year gives students an opportunity to explore multiple creative ideas, learn about diverse fields, develop a particular project or idea in-depth over a sequence of Studios, and have a rich and diverse portfolio of projects.