Preflight: Real-World Challenges in the Classroom

Preflight is a program I started that brings professionals into classrooms to host design thinking challenges related to their work.

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How can we build a bridge from school to the workplace? How can we inspire students to dream big about their future and give them practice solving real world challenges?

Preflight shows students a professional role model, then lets students collaborate to solve a challenge that the professional faces. 

Why Preflight?

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Here are the six key steps:

Preflight challenges can be done in any class, and help to connect class material with real world challenges from the world of business. 

I developed this idea through the OpenIDEO youth unemployment challenge and I have created a website and teacher guide to make the idea easy for teachers to implement. I would love feedback! 

Here's an example scenario:

Greg is a high school junior who loves video games and soccer. He gets average grades in school, and isn't too concerned about his future. One day, in English class, a video game user experience designer named Trevor comes into class, talks about his career journey and poses a challenge: "How can we make the perfect video game experience? Write a story describing your experience in the perfect video game." Greg is thrilled to see Trevor; he never knew how his interests could translate into a career. He normally doesn't like writing, but the thought of imagining the perfect experience excites him. The next week is the most fun week of school he's ever had. Greg's team researches current video games, interviews fellow classmates, brainstorms solutions and finally builds a mockup of a new video game. After presenting his team's idea, Greg talks to Trevor about his interests, and Trevor offers him a day to come shadow him at work. Trevor is excited by Greg's passion, and offers him a chance at a summer internship. The Preflight workshop showed Greg an exciting career possibility and launched him into the next phase of his future.

Check out the website for more information, a list of challenges and step-by-step guides:

Download the Teacher Guide

I would love to continue piloting the program in the upcoming school year. Please reach out to me if you are interested! Thank you!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph


What a cool model you've created...I love it!! I'm thinking this would be an amazing community to help you iterate the Teacher Kit you've created. What has been the feedback from teachers who have piloted and experienced the program? What are, if any, the pain points they've reported? How might we help make Preflight even more compelling and easy to use and implement in their classroom? Flemming had some great questions for you--are there ways we could create systems or tools around, say, how to craft a very good real world challenge to explore and the ways to go about exploring it? This is a vibrant community of inspired and inspiring teachers, it would be great for you to push this and come up with some ideas and solutions you'd like to prototype that would enhance the teacher experience of the program.

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Thanks for your ideas and questions!
So far, there has only been one pilot challenge last fall, before I had even made the teacher guidelines. I am hoping to do several challenges at my school this fall, but I am also actively seeking more teachers to run pilot challenges this year.
With that being said, it has been difficult to get enough feedback and keep iterating. I'm really hopeful that we can learn a lot from challenges this fall, and I'm hopeful that we can find people to implement and give feedback on this platform!
Let me know if you have any more ideas or connections!

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph

Hi Gavin,

I've been seeing quite a few posts popping up in the Ideate phase related to bringing outside experts into the classroom - Check out Patrick Murray's post, where he calls for creating a school wide collection of experts that can be called upon when needed--> and Devyn Curley's post about the STOMP program which partners pairs of Tufts University students with school teachers in the greater Boston area to create and implement engineering curricula in the teachers’ classrooms-->

I think it would be awesome for you to connect with them as you're working on similar goals (one at least--to bring in outside experts) and I think you might find it super fruitful and productive to get each other's different perspectives.

You might also want to reach out to Regan Drew --> and John Marshall -->
who co-run Trep Studio at Riverpoint Academy --> At Trep Studio, students take on real-world challenges and, using a design process to develop solutions, actually work to implement them. Professionals from the community work with students in order to create an authentic learning experience as they dive deeply into science, engineering, mathematics, the arts and humanities and entrepreneurship — all fueled by radical collaboration with peers, the use of powerful technology and a deeply caring and devoted staff. They're both absolutely fantastic and super passionate about what they do, which seems quite aligned with Preflight. I'm sure they might have some good insights and wisdom for you.

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

Thanks for the links Elsa, I'll get busy!

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