Design Works High School, a new public secondary school co-developed by New York City Public Schools, Bank Street College of Education, and Pratt Institute, opened its doors in Brooklyn, New York on September 7.
Born out of New York City’s Imagine NYC Schools initiative, Design Works empowers students to become changemakers through experiential learning opportunities connected to design thinking, community development, and social justice. Through local public and private partnerships, students will access robust real-world learning experiences to develop the creativity, communication, and critical thinking skills that promote college and career readiness and inspire their unique passions.
“At Design Works, our educators build culturally responsive, intentional learning environments that allow students to collaborate, critique, defend, and revise their work as they approach new challenges and master new skills,” said Corinth Hunter, Interim Acting Principal, Design Works High School. “We are very excited to launch our innovative new school model and to welcome our students for the 2023-24 school year.”
The school’s inaugural freshman class includes approximately 90 students, who will choose from one of three specialty tracks to focus on during the course of their studies. The art equity track will center interior design, digital design, and branding; the tech equity track will focus on IT and software engineering; and the housing equity track will enable students to study the economics and laws behind housing. Through these programs, students will collaborate with peers, educators, and local community leaders to solve complex problems that lead to a more equitable society.
The Design Works model draws from core principles of Bank Street’s approach to teaching and learning, which recognizes that students learn best when they are actively engaged with materials, ideas, and people and proudly provides students and educators with a foundation for transforming our world in large and small ways.
“At Bank Street, we believe we can build a better, more inclusive world through education,” said Shael Polakow-Suranksy, GSE ’00, President, Bank Street College. “We are excited to partner with Pratt Institute and New York City Public Schools to launch a new 21st-century model for public school education that helps students realize their unique potential, make a positive impact, and become agents of change in the world.”
The collaboration between Bank Street College and Pratt Institute to create Design Works spanned four years and engaged over 70 school leaders, city officials, community organizations, and students’ families. Hunter, who served as the project director during the planning phase and played an instrumental role in the school’s development, met with local parents, educators, and students as part of the research and brainstorming process. She noted that the school’s curriculum is a direct response to the needs that families identified for their community as well as feedback on how schools can help young people develop the capacity to address these community challenges.
“A collaborative learning process helped inform our curricula and students and families were drawn to our community approach to teaching and learning,” said Hunter, noting a waitlist of over 200 students for the freshman class.
As a New York City Public School, Design Works will operate under a schedule similar to traditional public schools while incorporating additional unique features that will help drive its mission and set students up for meaningful learning. For example, “design time” will be held three times a week in which core classes will extend by half an hour, providing space for students to take on the role of creators and apply their learnings in tangible ways. Teachers will also hold office hours at the end of each day to encourage students to ask questions and seek extra support.
In addition to experiences inside of the classroom, Design Works will provide opportunities for students to translate what they’re learning into local real-world settings through industry, community, and university partnerships that will enable students to access future internships, apprenticeships, and college coursework.
“We are thrilled to bring Pratt’s expertise in design, participatory practice, and problem solving to a new innovative school model. Preparing the next generation of makers and doers to think critically about developing solutions to real world problems can have great impact on their community and beyond,” said Frances Bronet, President, Pratt Institute. “Brooklyn is a vibrant borough with rich opportunities for immersive learning. Leveraging Pratt’s long standing relationships with community leaders in the arts and design industries will create broad and innovative avenues of learning for students.”
Bank Street and Pratt Institute will continue to play an advisory role in the ongoing development of Design Works and help advance the school’s mission and impact. To learn more about Design Works High School, visit the school website