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Design + Innovation

Three boys work at a laptop.

The Design Lab is Tulsa Public School's hub for design and innovation in our schools. The Design Lab supports educators, schools and the community to imagine and launch new learning experiences for our youth.

Regardless of the size of project, the scale of the vision, or the people involved, we use the same basic process. We help people move through four basic stages of design:

Step 1: Learn as much as possible about context, directly from those who experience it everyday. This usually involves interviews, real-life observations.

Step 2: Describe the context and issue as accurately as possible, with as much detail as possible. When they can paint a complete picture, they are ready to start designing solutions.

Step 3: Brainstorm many potential ideas that are based on an accurate understanding of the context.

Step 4: Test the most promising ideas, early and often. Improve the best idea as many times and ways as possible before launching.

Step 5: Launch, and keep learning and improving. Implement the best version of the idea, but keep treating it like a rough draft.

The Design Lab currently works in three areas: personalized learning, high school design, and charter school authorizing.

More about the Design Lab

The Design Lab exists to support school communities to imagine and create schools that unlock the potential of our youth, educators and city.

We empower those closest to youth with agency and voice.

We don't design things by ourselves. We work with others: youth, families, educators and communities and support their design efforts.

We champion equity, when it is easy and when it is hard.

We don't accept that our current educational outcomes are acceptable or inevitable. We believe we can do better -- and right -- by all students. To achieve this, we must use design to disrupt systemic and institutional racism and inequity.

We try small and fail forward.

We learn faster by doing; rather than theorizing the best solution, we prototype, learn, iterate and improve. We assume our first solution won’t be the best solution, so we start small. This way when we fail, we fail small. And when we succeed we scale bigger.

We design experiences, not things.

 It is easy to change things -- curriculum, physical space -- but too often, these changes don't change our fundamental beliefs and practices. We believe that human experiences are a more powerful fulcrum for change.

We measure outcomes.

 The design process values the learning from failure, but it doesn't accept failure itself. We measure outcomes so we can improve, exit or scale a solution based on results.


We learn from every experience.

Rapid learning is the key to rapid improvement. We have candid discussions about what is working and what isn’t, then we use that learning to make it better.

We support a culture of design and innovation throughout the district.

Great ideas and creative people need a climate in which they can thrive. We work to create that climate: in the district office, our schools, and our classrooms. 

We create opportunities for school communities to design new learning models.

Ideas, like schools, are strongest when supported by many voices. School design is the most powerful when communities -- those affected by and most knowledgeable about our neighborhoods and students -- are full partners.

We proactively and prospectively resolve barriers that interfere with new model success.

We run into barriers everyday. Some are technical barriers, like data reporting. And some are intangible barriers, like reluctance to change. Whatever the barrier is, we work to resolve, mitigate or work around it.

We believe the city can be our students' classroom.

Learning doesn’t happen just inside schools. We work with our community partners, youth development organizations, and higher education to design a complete learning experience.


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Students making a list of brainstorming ideas at FabLab.

Contact Us

Design Lab

Andrea Castañeda
Chief Innovation Officer

Joey Fraier
Design Lab Director

Bracken Klar
Director of Community Engagement 

Erin Buchanan
Director of Community Engagement 

Susan Carey
Project Manager, School Design

Lynn McKenney
Instructional Mentor

Amanda Barnard
Data Analyst

Mindy Sutterfield
Operations Associate

Female student in high school classroom looking back at camera.

Design Lab's Support to Schools, by the numbers

13 schools running personalized learning programs

2800 students learning in highly-personalized environments

2 elementary schools that launched innovative approaches to teaching and learning

6 public charter schools and one partnership school, serving approximately 2500 Tulsa students

Over 4100 youth and educators have contributed to our understanding of teaching and learning in Tulsa Public Schools