Experience – IDEATE High Academy
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Thank you for taking the time to check out Ideate High Academy.  Our Design Thinking curriculum rooted in Project Based Learning helps prepare our students for college and for jobs that did not exist when adults like me were students.  We believe that learning should be challenging, inspiring, rigorous, and fun.  Please read through some of the things that we feel make our school great.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

Chris Wakefield, Director of Ideate High Academy

experience1Students learn rigorous content while doing projects that are engaging. In the picture to the left, Ideate 9th grade students are explaining the circuitry from the board game that they designed for 4th grade students as part of a Physics Project. In order to create the game, students needed to understand how to solder, learn to design their boards in Photoshop, figure out how to solder various circuit configurations, and apply their knowledge of electricity to enhance their board game for an authentic audience.

“It was fun creating the games for the 4th graders. I thought it was cool that we learned Physics and how to solder while having fun.” -Ideate 9th grade student

experience2Ideate prepares students for college. Students will be challenged and supported so that every Ideate Graduate exceeds the UC A-G Requirements. Our goal is that every Ideate student gets accepted to at least one 4 year college/university. Additionally, every Ideate student will take at least one college course by the time they graduate. Beginning in 9th grade, students learn how to calculate their GPA and learn about different colleges through research and field trips to college campuses.

experience3The transition to 9th grade is vital to a student’s success. Ideate has implemented ways to ensure that the transition to high school is as successful as possible for our students.

Summer Bridge: Incoming students are invited to participate in a week long Summer Bridge.   The purpose of Summer Bridge is to make sure students are comfortable in our small learning environment. Each Summer Bridger is in a small group with an older Ideate Student Mentor. Students will participate in ice breakers, team builders, and a mini project to get them ready for the year.

experience4Student Led Conferences: Twice a year Ideate students lead conferences about their progress and set goals for growth with their parents and teachers. In the days leading up to the conferences, students work in small groups to prepare an outline and to practice what they will say in order to be as prepared as possible. These conferences help students develop their sense of self advocacy and independence.

experience5Exhibitions of Student Work: When students produce work that matters they put in more effort, and thus learn more. Ideate celebrates the work of all students through exhibitions. Exhibitions are a great time for student’s to communicate with their audience what they learned, how they learned it and how what they learned impacts the world. The interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum helps show students that their work matters.

experience6Internships: During their 11th grade year, Ideate students will participate in a month long internship at companies with mentors who have

a college degree. In preparation for their internship, students will create a resume, write a cover letter, participate in interviews and plan their internship projects. During their internship, students will complete their project, interview their mentor about their career path, write a photo essay about their experience and lead an Internship Presentation of Learning to explain how they grew from their internship.

experience7Learning Outside of the Classroom:

Students do engaging work that matters. In addition to collaborating with students and teachers in the classroom, Ideate students get out of the classroom and learn from professors, professionals and community members. The picture on the left captures our students with a UCSD professor sharing his knowledge of Chicano Park. Students learned the history and cultural legacy of Chicano Park during their visit. This was also how Ideate teachers launched their interdisciplinary project on social justice.

experience8Field Trips. Our students have enriched their learning through meaningful and engaging field trips. Students have explored multiple cultures and arts through their visit to the Chinese Historical Museum, Chicano Park, and the Asian Film Festival. Students toured SDSU and met with students and professors to gain perspective on college-life and responsibilities. In addition, students explored the Museum of Photographic Arts to inspire and cultivate a creative environment.

experience9Interdisciplinary Project Example: Breaking the Systems of Inequalities

Physics. How can we use physics to capture a social injustice? In physics, students explored introductory quantum mechanics and used their knowledge of particle/wave duality to construct a pinhole camera. Students captured images depicting a social injustice that they were passionate about. Once taken, the students developed their images in a dark room and framed them in a classic black and white frame. Students were then asked to compare the difference between a traditional camera and the pinhole camera that they created.


experience11Math. Differentiation for all level of learning.

Students used Desmos, which is an online graphing calculator application, to make equations that formed the word that best depicted their social activist. Students were able to make equations simple linear equations to understand how to manipulate a line on graph. If students wanted to be challenged, they could formulate quadratic and circle equations to make more complicated and detailed lines. Check out this example:

experience12Humanities & Design: What makes a social activist effective and impactful? This was the essential question Ideate students explored in Humanities. Students researched past and present social activists throughout the world. They met local activists and interviewed them on their inspiration, methods and challenges. Ideate students wrote biographical narratives on a specific social activist that they connected with. Students went through the five steps of the writing process and incorporated several literary elements in their writing. They wrote multiple drafts and received several peer critiques on their narratives in order to make their final piece as professional as possible. The Design component was to create a piece of artwork that would best represent their social activist and what they fought for. Students created elaborate string art to represent their activist. To see more examples of the art pieces and writing samples, visit

Advisory. Students are placed in an advisory at the beginning of the year. Advisors complete Home Visits at the beginning of the year to meet and greet parents and students, address any concerns or questions, and to ensure that the start of their freshmen year is a success. During the school year, advisory period is used to practice SAT questions, research colleges and potential majors, explore career pathways, set goals, complete check-ins, and build community.

Connections to Real World Experts

Ideate students have the opportunity to meet real world experts throughout their school year. In just this past year, students gained meaningful insight of a variety of professions. Ideate students met with a photographer before they began their Pinhole Physics project. They gained tips in making their cameras and also an understanding of the profession. Students also met several authors, artists and designers, start up business owners, a baker, pilot and several professors.


In addition to their high school academic coursework, Ideate High Academy students will have opportunities for additional exposure to local colleges and universities which may include dual enrollment, certificates or badges earned. To date we are seeking affiliations with:

Higher Education

  • University of California, San Diego
  • New School of Architecture
  • San Diego City College
  • San Diego State University
  • Design Institute of San Diego
  • Art Center College of Design
  • California College of the Arts
  • Stanford University

Organization Affiliations

  • AIGA the professional organization for design
  • American Institute of Architects
  • Fab Lab
  • Interior Design Society of America
  • Nissan Design Center
  • Qualcomm
  • Society of Experiential Graphic Design
  • STE+AM Connect
  • Urban Land Institute


The 21st Century marks an evolution from a knowledge economy into a design economy.

Students will thrive in this new economy, if they are able to create innovative breakthroughs by integrating ideas from diverse fields to meet complex human needs.

Design Thinking is the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge. That kind of optimism is well needed in education.

Ideate High Academy will prepare students for success through mastering 21st Century skills:

•  Creativity and Innovation

•  Communication and Collaboration

•  Research and Information Fluency

•  Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

•  Empathy and Citizenship

•  Technology Operations and Concepts