Twenty public school campuses are receiving innovation grants with $1 million from the Dallas Independent School District budget this year.
The grants of $50,000 have been awarded after a 65 school competition for the money.
North Dallas High School is using the money to expand what educators call "Design Thinking."
Principal Katie Eska said the new decision making approach calls for empathy with end users, who in this case are students. Focused on who is being served in a situation, options are then considered for solutions using methods that may be different than what would have been considered before.
For instance, metal detectors at North Dallas High have been decorated with images of the bulldog school mascot and Looney Tunes characters in honor of original Bugs Bunny artist Tex Avery who was a graduate of North Dallas High.
"We wanted our students when they entered the building each morning to not feel like they were going through a TSA pre-check, but that they were entering their high school," Eska said. "So, we took it to the Art Class and presented them with this issue. And they redesigned the experience by completely doing a makeover on our metal detectors."
Design thinking is being used by North Dallas HS students this year on other projects.
"This school being such a diverse school, how can we get everybody together and what can we do as a school to build and really make this school together," said North Dallas HS Senior Kita Pen.
The Design Thinking approach is being used in lessons by North Dallas HS Teachers, who must surrender some of their authority to students.
"A lot of the problems that we've been trying to solve for years and years up top are going to be met with solutions by students that are different from what a lot of us have thought," said teacher Isaiah Carter. "It allows students to be empowered to add agency and be a part of the solution process at our school."
North Dallas HS Senior Ricardo Ramirez said the new Design Thinking approach inspires students.
"School is there for you to learn and it's going to help you in the future. That can help flip your mind completely around and help you progress in life," he said.
Dallas ISD has 220 campuses. Brian Lusk, Dallas ISD chief of Strategic Initiatives, said the innovation grants are part of the effort to compete with charter and private schools and keep students in the public schools.
"We recognize that our neighborhood schools are a choice for our families and we want to make sure that the choice they make in the neighborhood schools meet the needs of the parents and the students," Lusk said.
North Dallas High School in Uptown is surrounded by private and charter school options for students.
"So we want to make sure we offer them something that helps them both think outside the box and be awesome graduates when they leave North Dallas. And we also want to bring in more students that want to have that type of experience," Eska said.
Some Design Thinking material in use at North Dallas High came from Stanford University. Eska said Southern Methodist University has a Design Thinking degree program and the approach has been in use elsewhere at the college level. She has found only two other high schools, in Atlanta and Southern California where Design Thinking is in use.
She said the $50,000 grant will help North Dallas High collaborate with those other schools and provide materials for Design Thinking projects.
Other Innovation Grants from Dallas ISD go to:
• Lincoln High School (Virtual Learning)
• Young Women's STEAM Academy at Balch Springs Middle School (G.I.F.T.)
• Woodrow Wilson High School (Wildcat Way)
• Terry Elementary School (STEAM)
• Lee A. McShan Elementary School (STEAM)
• John Ireland Elementary School (Expeditionary Learning)
• Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary School (STEAM)
• Gilbert Cuellar, Sr. Elementary School (Leadership STREAM)
• Maria Moreno Elementary School (STEAM)
• Arcadia Park Elementary School (Leadership)
• John Neely Bryan Elementary School (STEM/STEAM)
• George Peabody Elementary School (SEL)
• James Bowie Elementary School (Global Service Learning)
• Anne Frank Elementary School (Personalized Learning)
• Harry C. Withers Elementary School (STEM)
• Bayles Elementary School (Leadership)
• K.B. Polk Elementary School (Personalized Learning)
• Oran M. Roberts Elementary School (Blended Learning)
• Urban Park Elementary School (STEM)