Innovation Diploma

An Innovation Hub

Innovation Diploma is not a course. We’re a start-up. We are a school within a school. We are School 3.0.

As a joint program between the School and MVIFI, iDiploma students engage with leaders in various industries, to create value through intensive ventures, and to build capacity as young innovators. Rather than merely preparing students for the future, iDiploma empowers young leaders to inspire, innovate, and implement high-impact work now.

Innovation Diploma unfolds as a three to four year program. Participants onboard with "Yeoman's Training" to build muscle and capacity as innovators. Then, various routes define each member's experience. When cohort members complete the program, they earn not only an MVPS diploma but an Innovation Diploma from MVIFI.

We believe that the core of innovation is a synergy between curiosity and action. An innovator engages, attacks, experiments with and ultimately solves problems in new ways. We must stop underestimating high school students. In fact, our young change makers are our best asset. Innovation Diploma empowers them to be innovators now.

View the iDiploma Program Guide

Our Work

Where do our projects come from?

iDiploma creates opportunities for learners to gain a growing sense of self and even greater ownership over their learning journeys. Through explorations and exposure to a variety of types of innovation and a variety of potential project origins, we are continuing to build their toolboxes, so that each member can chart his/her own journey. Through design thinking and the core Innovator DNA skills, these learners are empowered to put their own mark on the world and do it with a tremendous amount of confidence and craftsmanship.

We operate as a team of innovators who tackle ventures* not projects. These ventures originate from the cohort members’ explorations as well as an all call to the community to submit their problems/opportunities. We've identified three types of ventures: (i)Ventures, CoVentures, and adVentures, that help us categorize the type of work we're tackling. With (i)Ventures, an iDiploma member pursues an individual objective through the lenses of inquiry, innovation, and/or impact. With coVentures, a small team of iDiploma members collaborates more interconnectedly to create new value and entrepreneurial or innovative enhancement in some thing, event, community, process, or product. Lastly, adVentures are moments where the iDiploma facilitators offer a challenge or opportunity to help learners hone a specific skill or set of skills.

*We intentionally use the word venture, which implies a risky undertaking or a daring journey; the word has an implicit sense of exploration and excitement.

Transformational Design and Leadership

Eleven of our iDiploma cohort members are embarking on an adVenture, where the facilitators are helping them identify strengths, build team and build capacity in our Maker tools.

Design Brief: Peachtree Station

A Design Brief, provided to us by Jeff Garrison from S.J. Collins Enterprises, has a group of iDiploma members concepting site plans for an outdoor community space that will be part of a larger high-end retail complex anchored by Whole Foods. The development, which sits on 11 acres, has the potential to change the landscape and the community of a nearby town.

Venture Sparked from Observational Journaling

Through observational journaling and empathy interviews, a group of iDiploma members stumbled on their own design challenge they are determined to solve: How might we make sustainability part of our DNA?

Assistive Technology Rounds

Foundational Rounds are agency building projects meant to introduce students to new tools, materials, and habits of making.

HMW be more globally competitive?

At the inaugural Council on Innovation event in 2013, a cadre of student designers took on the challenge of "How might we be more globally competitive?"

HMW improve communications at NAES?

In the spring of 2015, a chief engineer from the North American Energy Services Corporation (NAES) enlisted the services of Innovation Diploma to conduct a "consultivation" (consulting for innovation) focused on "How might we improve communications across the 10 engineers working across the country in different systems and time zones?"

Artisan, Tinkerer, Hacker

A group of iDiploma students are wrapping up their first year in the program with three rounds of building in our Hive space. Each round is intentionally designed so that students will learn and use the tools available to them, which will help them build their confidence as a maker. Additionally, the elements they are building are intended to hack the current culture and will serve as concrete examples of how building ideas and products visibly and tangibly can bring people together, convey new information or create a sense of community.

Building a Culture of Innovation

Each year, we gather a new cohort of learners who have committed to build habits of mind, practice and skills of innovators. It is critically important that we onboard our new innovators with the language and case studies around what it means to innovate and to also help them realize they can grow their innovator muscles through both practice and tapping into their strengths. This three week module invites students to discover and begin practicing the key innovator skills: observe, question, experiment, network and associate. Through play, facilitated discussions using protocols, sketching exercises and small expeditions, we help set the pace for the skills we will work to build over the next four years.

Design Brief: Reducing Traffic

A team of iDiploma students are committed to reducing traffic in the City of Sandy Springs, a design brief that originated from the Mayor's office. Mayor Rusty Paul, along with the Sandy Springs City Council, has been working on the traffic problem in the city, and these students have now been given the opportunity to be part of the solution. Currently, a team of students are leading conversations with members of the community including Sandy Springs Neighborhood Associations, Mount Vernon parents and students, and Georgia Commute Options. The student team is currently conducting traffic and carpool experiments at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School to decrease traffic in the school community by 10%. Their goal is to use MVPS as a small area case study group, develop traffic recommendations for schools in the Sandy Springs area and the city as a whole.

Design Brief: AT&T Foundry

A group of four students were given a design brief from AT&T Foundry that had them gathering user-based insights on the ideal way to surface video content to customers. Through multiple modes of empathy and discovery work, the team distilled insights and discovered patterns that helped them ultimately create a mid-rez prototype for their client. The team pitched their prototype to ten members of AT&T and the Foundry and were met with high praise: "This is better than a lot of the $100k market research projects I've seen come in." The AT&T Foundry team is currently taking the prototype to their design teams to build it out even further.

Visual Design Thinking

Visual Design thinking is a way for us to lean into images as a means to prototype over words on post-its or even physical prototypes. It often requires no more than pen and paper and prototypes can be created very quickly which means more ideas and failing faster which ultimately leads to more creative solutions.

Apply for iDiploma

Innovation Diploma is an opportunity open to Mount Vernon students entering grade 9 or 10. This program is a multiyear journey that unfolds as a three or four year experience inviting students to be change makers now. Students who thrive in this program are insatiably curious, profoundly optimistic, deeply empathic and biased toward action. Contact Meghan Cureton at mcureton@mountvernonschool.org for more information on the application process or simply click the button below to apply today. Applications are due by January 25, 2017 for the 2017-1018 school year.

iDiploma Highlights

Posts on MVIFI's Blog

Using StrengthsFinder to discover the potential in our students (and employees)

One of my very favorite things about working with students is watching them come...
8th Nov 18

Establishing Student Agency

How to Recognize Roles, Set Expectations, and Let Go in Inquiry-Based Learning In October...
15th Sep 18

Why School? – Skyler Tiffin’s MoVe Talk Released

Caught in learning spaces where the only feedback that anyone seems to value are...
7th Sep 17

Insights from Shadow a Student Challenge

By Katie Cain (originally posted on personal blog) On Thursday, February 8, I had...
21st Feb 17

The Slow Hunch: One iDiploma Member’s Story

WRITTEN BY MEGHAN CURETON Meet Brady. He joined the iDiploma program last year as...
27th Jan 17

The Movement: Transforming Education

28th Nov 16

How WE Work – Strengths-based Leadership

I frequent the “How I Work” tag on lifehacker. Some find the habit odd....
29th Sep 16

New School Model that Will Transform Education: Student as Designer & Community Partner as Client

By Meghan Cureton Using design briefs as a primary means of project curation is...
24th Sep 16

Backwards Design

By Meghan Cureton (Originally posted on my personal blog,  I Wonder…) The primary way we...
28th Aug 16

Building Culture not Compliance | I wonder…

Yesterday was our first day back as an iDiploma team, and we welcomed our newest...
18th Aug 16

Spotlight: Two Innovators who Helped Build iDiploma

Today, at Mount Vernon’s Honors Assembly, I got to honor two of the founding...
5th May 16

The Cliff of Every Project

T.J. Edwards and I (Trey) just completed a module for Innovation Diploma called Transformational Design...
25th Apr 16

That’s a Wrap: Design Brief #1

Today was pretty incredible, as it marks the end of iDiploma’s first full-scale design...
3rd Apr 16

iDiploma Challenge at the d.School

Almost a year ago, the Innovation Diploma facilitator team began imagining an intensive field...
25th Mar 16

To Help Another

(This post was originally published on October 14, 2015, on The Creek Bed) A...
14th Feb 16

Waiting for Thursdays | The Life of Pinya

I haven’t blogged in a while. Partially because I’ve been busy and already up...
14th Feb 16

Assessing Inquiry, Innovation and Impact

    The work we do with our Innovation Diploma students is audacious. And...
11th Feb 16

Building Innovators | I wonder

Yesterday, we hosted a coffee for parents and students currently enrolled in Innovation Diploma....
15th Jan 16

Creating Innovators: Learning Pathways for iDiploma

After wrapping up our Design Thinking Accelerator Module, Innovation Diploma cohorts were faced with...
20th Nov 15

The Creativity Crisis Demands School Transformation

Students Emmy Schaeffer and Anya Smith from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School’s Innovation Diploma are...
30th Oct 15

Reflections from iDiploma on Design for Healthy Living Module | I wonder

  What an incredible week! Part of the work of an Innovation Diploma member is...
20th Oct 15

iDiploma Design Challenges Underway: Feedback and Assessment

The past two weeks Innovation Diploma has been immersed in the design challenges that...
6th Oct 15