The XQ Super School Project, an ideas competition sponsored by The Emerson Collective, led by Laurene Powell Jobs, seeks to rethink high school education in America. Participants are challenged to design a new approach to high school education that better suits the needs of 21st century students. The aim is to research, design and implement transformative ideas that will have real impacts on student achievement.

As Architects with a strong focus on Education, Ruhnau Clarke Architects is immersed in the design of educational environments every day. We approached this challenge openly, asking "if limited only by our ideas, what could we come up with?"

Though finalists, who move onto the development stage to compete for the $50 Million sponsorship money, won't be selected until April; we can put our research and ideas to use in inspiring our everyday work.

In this series we present our research and design concepts as thought starters to developing a new vision for what high school education might look- simply called REVERB.

Series 1: DiscoverStudents in the 21st Century, Youth Experience and Aspirations, The Science of Adolescent Learning

Youth Experience and Aspirations

The Reverb team hosted discussions with high school students across Southern California in order to gain an understanding of what their high school experiences are and how they relate to their passions and aspirations beyond the classroom, what limited them and what would make them better. What resonated with us was the frequency with which these students expressed similar opinions about their opportunities or lack thereof. They all expressed a desire for a personal connection with their teachers, peers and to establish connections with local professionals. They confirmed, through the effectiveness of their learning, that establishing these connections kept them more engaged in their courses. Unfortunately, these opportunities are the exception and not the rule.

The students all yearned for courses to be taught in a manner that applied to challenges they’ll be facing upon graduation; courses that are relevant to them and that will prepare them for life beyond high school and college; courses that allow them to explore careers and subject areas within a shorter timeframe than a typical schoolyear in order to gain a better understanding of themselves and what they would like to pursue. It is an expensive endeavor to rely on these explorations in college.

Our youth have had to rely on social media as their only exposure to careers and for insight into college. This is an instance where our school system is failing them. Reverb aims to make this information readily accessible, to make it accepted and incorporated into their learning environment. Technology has created many opportunities for learning beyond the confines of the four walls of a classroom. It is no longer relevant to believe that schools should be insular and self-sustaining. It is evident that our schools need to adapt. Our future needs to connect.

Reverb aims to harness the curiosity and opportunities that are at everyone’s fingertips.