(PART 3) A (Pragmatic/Optimistic) Recommendation from two Millennials (Ali and Mel)

This is Part Three (the finale) of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.

“Your message is great, but as 9th graders at a high-performing school, we’ve been essentially told what our paths should be for the next ten years (that is, to graduate from high school and attend a top-tier college). How do we make the choice to pursue our “musts” now, if our futures are basically decided for us through college?”

This question is a particularly interesting one; and it’s certainly one that we can empathise with. Our recommendation to the 9th graders would be to take the time to understand and discover your ‘musts’ without necessarily shedding your ‘shoulds’. There is beauty in being mindfully aware of both your passions and societal expectations, without also being impulsive. As teenagers, you’ve probably only been exposed to a ritualistic life that consists of mostly being at school and perhaps engaging in a few after school activities. Therefore, you probably don’t have a developed and comprehensive understanding of what your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ even are yet – and that’s totally fine! There are ways to discover and foster your ‘musts’ while still pursuing your ‘shoulds’. For example, let’s say that a ‘should’ is: I should go to college. However, you also know that a ‘must’ of yours is: I must paint. Well, our advice would be to schedule time into your schedule at college to continue cultivating your skill as a painter whenever possible, and to incorporate this ‘must’ into your daily routine and practice, even if your efforts are primarily centered on your ‘shoulds’. You could even major or minor in the Visual Arts! Your college years are a wonderful time  (and perhaps the only time afforded to your young adult life) to explore, make space for, and cultivate the passions that you didn’t or couldn’t afford to in high school or potentially later in your professional life. For example, you could take an eclectic class or join an intriguing club that wouldn’t have been offered to you as a high schooler. You may discover a ‘must’ that you never even knew existed! In sum, we believe that it’s important to engage in reflective introspection while being open to new activities, perspectives, and environments in order to cultivate an evolving understanding of your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’. However, it is not always beneficial to act impulsively and dispose of the ‘shoulds’ immediately. It’s worth considering what the intentions of the ‘shoulds’ are (economic stability, moral upbringing, mental and physical health are some of the intentions of ‘shoulds’), and whether and how your ‘musts’ serve those intentions – and whether those ‘shoulds’ apply to you. Oftentimes, you can pursue your ‘shoulds’ while still allotting time for your ‘musts’ to develop. Remember, understanding the ‘self’ is a lifelong process; don’t assume that you already know all of your ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’. Let life surprise you.


We wish you the best as you ponder your trajectories at The Crossroads of Should and Must!
Written By: Melissa Cesarano and Alison Lee

(PART 2) A Millennial Take on “The Crossroads of Should and Must”

This is Part Two of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.

The rethinkED team was very privileged to attend Elle Luna’s talk entitled ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’, which discussed striking an optimal balance between pursuing one’s own passions (The Musts) and fulfilling societal expectations of success (the Shoulds). Elle Luna, a millennial herself,  emphasized that in order to identify the ‘Shoulds’ and the ‘Musts’, one needs to cultivate a heightened sense of self-awareness (i.e., what matters to me most? What makes me uniquely me?), as well as a realization of the belief and value systems imposed on us by society (i.e. what kinds of assumptions are made about who I should be and what I should care about?). A critical component of this introspective process is the ability to understand when personal and societal expectations coincide or deviate from one another.  For example, do the tenets of my religious upbringing align with the ethical beliefs that I’ve acquired from my personal experience? To clarify, Elle Luna does not mean to imply that all ‘Shoulds’ are inherently bad or that we need to immediately act on shedding all of our ‘Shoulds’ in order to arrive at a more authentic experience. In fact, Elle Luna explains that many ‘shoulds’ are actually essential for our survival and our successful development into adulthood. Thus, a continuous and evolving evaluation of which ‘Shoulds’ are harmful or beneficial to our personal goals, will help guide our awareness to the specific ‘shoulds’ that are necessary to shed.

A Gen-Z response to “Shoulds” vs. “Musts”

A recent article in the NY Times highlighted the rise of Generation Z (estimated to be between 5-19 years old now). Younger, true digital natives, hard-working, anxious, and skeptical, these adolescents harbor a sense of general apprehension and anxiety – understandably, as they are growing up in a time when economic and political systems are less stable, peers are more competitive, and the prospects of growing up less optimistic. This may be particularly inflated on the Riverdale campus, where our young scholars are among the most talented, hard-working, and competitive – their futures are bright, but the bar is set exceptionally high, too. It is not surprising, then, that Elle Luna’s presentation elicited one particularly pragmatic but well-considered question from the freshman class attending the talk: “Your message is great, but as 9th graders at a high-performing school, we’ve been essentially told what our paths should be for the next ten years (that is, to graduate from high school and attend a top-tier college). How do we make the choice to pursue our “musts” now, if our futures are basically decided for us through college?” It was a legitimate question that clearly resonated with the class, eliciting snaps and nods of agreements.

How do you (personally) uncover your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’? Is there a particular habit or routine that allows you to introspect in this way? Do you think that your generation has had a large influence on your path to self-discovery? Are your generations’ attitudes and beliefs really just another ‘should’? How do you balance your life responsibilities and your life passions? We’d love to discuss all of these questions! Be sure to comment below!
Next week, a post on how we would respond to the Gen Z-er’s question: a (pragmatic/optimistic) recommendation from two millennials (ourselves).

(Part 1) Millennials: Selfish Couch Potatoes or Optimistic World Citizens?

This is Part One of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.

If you Google the term “Millennials”, you’ll return about 17 million hits that all center on disentangling the psyche of the generation who has or just about reached adulthood today. There is great contention in understanding what drives Millennials; we are “entitled”, “narcissistic”, “lazy”, “overeducated”, leeches who live at home, diverse, entitled, and financially anxious; but we are also frugal, financially and technologically savvy, upbeat, engaged, increasingly global, socially and politically literate/active, share a common mistrust of religious leaders, government entities and military powers, socially liberal, and surprisingly optimistic despite growing up in an era of economic instability and wavering confidence in political leaders. Most critically, there are overwhelming disagreements about whether the millennial pursuit of the “perfect job” – that is, a job that fulfills intellectual needs, compensates generously for provided skill, purposefully addresses a real world demand, and respects the parameters of a work-life balance – is decidedly selfish/unrealistic, or a welcome departure from previous generations’ approach to careers and fulfillment. It is a debate that generates both derision and admiration from older generations, and point to a larger paradigmatic shift in a values system that is quickly evolving before our eyes: what fulfills us? What matters in a job? How do you quantify success? At what point does personal ambition come at odds with pragmatic considerations? What is the longevity of such a pursuit, and what are the financial, emotional, and societal implications down the road?

Where do you fall in your evaluation of what’s important in a career? How has the generation you belonged to, and the historical events surrounding your coming-of-age impacted how you defined success? What do you think of the millenial pursuit of the “perfect job?” Sound off and let us know how you define success, happiness, and career satisfaction in the comments below. 


Next week, a post on how one millennial has framed her pursuit of purpose and profession in a talk titled “The Crossroads of Should and Must”, and how one Generation Z-er, a Riverdale student, responded.

“Why do we need to know this?” [Connecting the classroom to the real world]

This past week the rethinkED team participated in a day-long think tank on how to re-invent the American High School, in an effort to develop a proposal for the XQ Super School Project. While I am excited to share some of the ideas we had, today I thought I’d start by thinking about one really powerful idea that kept me thinking long after our session ended:

“Why do we need to know this?”

^ This question is one that often pops up in the classroom. Quite frankly, students often do not see a connection between the abstract and tedious work done in classroom and their lives outside of school, both future and present. This lack of connection is problematic for a number of reasons:

  1. Without this vital connection, we often encounter the “inert knowledge” problem; students learn something but they don’t know how to use it. This relates more broadly to issues of transfer: how can we help students to use something they have learned in one context, at one time, or on one type of task in a different context, time, or on a different task? I am currently taking a course about Transfer of Learning. While transfer is arguably a main goal of education, research has generally found weak support for transfer. Students often do not learn content in ways that facilitate applying knowledge later in life or in different situations (I hope to talk about this more in upcoming weeks!).
  2. A second issue is the lack of value assigned to content learned in school. Without understanding potential applications of a skill, students see little value in learning it in the first place. If I don’t value what I am learning, I am less motivated and engaged.

Connecting classroom and community through project and problem based learning…*

With this in mind, I loved hearing this TED talk by Cesar Harada: How I teach kids to love science. He connects science to real community problems, both local and abroad. From developing an invention to estimate plastic in polluted oceans to analyzing seabed radioactivity near the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was damaged in 2011, Harada’s students work on real and relevant work problems in their science classroom. This sort of problem and project-based experiential learning can help students see the relevance of science education. Furthermore, Harada is cultivating a generation of innovators and problem solvers. His classroom is a workshop. Through rapid prototyping with tools, his students have become scientists and inventors. As he says,

“So citizen scientists, makers, dreamers — we must prepare the next generation that cares about the environment and people, and that can actually do something about it.”


By connecting science skills to real-world issues, we can increase the relevance of school education and give our students much needed experience in using skills in a meaningful way. As illustrated by Cesar Harada, connecting schoolwork to real life problems has benefits beyond increasing value and transfer; we can empower students to be innovators and problem solvers.

This process of embedding learning in the community and in real, complex problems is something that we hope to include in our XQ proposal. By providing students with a variety of contexts in which their knowing can be directly applied, we can create a more engaging and useful education that has applicability far beyond the classroom…*


On Emotions, Cognition, and Comedy: An Introduction

Hello everyone! My name is Melissa Cesarano, and I am a new member of the rethinkED team for the 2015-2016 school year. To introduce myself, I’d like to begin by stating that I’m quite an eccentric human with eclectic tastes and talents. I’m a yogi, actress, comedian/improviser, poet, and cognitive scientist! I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (Quakersssss!!!) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Cognitive Studies and Philosophy of Mind, and a minor in Poetics. Currently, I’m a PhD student at Columbia University in Cognitive Studies in Education. I also work at a biotech company, Evoke Neuroscience, where I serve as the company’s science writer, lecturer, and research associate. At Evoke, I’m also training to receive a certification in biofeedback and neurofeedback, which will help me acquire a more holistic approach to emotional and psychological wellness, in addition to my more academic brain expertise. Additionally, I’m attending comedy school at The Peoples Improv Theater and The Upright Citizens Brigade. I’ve co-founded my own NYC sketch comedy group, Laundry Day Comedy, and believe strongly that humor, play, and creativity are essential to our epistemic growth and self-realization as life long students; as Ludwig Wittgenstein so elegantly stated, “If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.”

My research as a Doctoral Candidate focuses on emotions. In undergrad, I felt that the cognitive realm was academically interesting, yet lacked the poetry, color, and humanity that I yearned for as an artist and creative. Admittedly, there seemed to be a lack of understanding as to where/how to fit emotions into a cognitive framework. Therefore, about two years into graduate school education, I resolved to undertake the task of understanding emotions from a cognitive perspective.

Emotions are difficult to comprehend intellectually even though they’re an integral part of our everyday lives. Nevertheless, they certainly color our interactions with others, motivate our behaviors, elucidate our passions, and are essential to our experience as humans. To clarify, they are a phenomenological manifestation of the things that matter to us. For a brief introduction to emotions (What Emotions Are (and Aren’t)) I recommend reading this riveting article in The New York Times by Lisa Feldman Barrett, the head honcho in Emotion Research (I like to call her ‘The Big LFB’):


Specifically, the research that I’ve been conducting at Columbia, along with my research partner Ilya, relates to teaching people abstract models of the Human Emotion System (HES). Creating accurate mental models of our own emotional functioning and grounding these principles in tangible real-life emotional situations, seems to increase self-regulation through increased self-awareness of emotional functioning in a variety of different experiential contexts. The topic of my dissertation, however, deals with the ‘naïve’ mental models that people acquire intuitively through everyday life experience prior to explicit learning of the HES. Arriving at a deeper understanding of people’s HES intuitions and misconceptions (and the cognitive processes that underlie them) through careful epistemological inquiry, should thus allow for a more effective teaching of the HES model and other social-emotional learning (SEL) concepts.

Basically, I think it’s really insane that students are taught things like ‘the laws of physics’ in school, but are never taught the ‘laws of emotions’, the causal relations and principles of our own emotional functioning. Instead, we are left with the difficult and daunting task of pretty blindly dealing with these powerful and mysterious forces. Interestingly, emotionality is delegated to ‘higher learning’, a Psych 101 lecture in the hallowed spaces of America’s college halls.

Finally, I would like to join Ali in saying that it is an absolute privilege to be a part of such an inspiring community here at Riverdale. We hope to enlighten you and to contribute to the ever-evolving educational landscape at this prestigious school. Keep a lookout for upcoming posts from the rethinkED team!

With gratitude and an abundance of smiles,


Games, Metacognition, Big Data, and Education – An Introduction

Hello, world! My name is Alison, and I am one of two new members joining the rethinkED team this year. I hail from a background of research, cognition, ed tech, and data science – I am currently a Ph.D student at Columbia University, Teachers College in Cognitive Studies in Education, and a M.S. student in Learning Analytics (Educational Data Mining) – and I’m very excited to share my perspectives on how we can re-imagine learning both in and out of the classroom. I hail from a sleepy farm town nestled in the western valley of the Watchung mountains in central New Jersey, where I emigrated to at age five with a twin sister and older brother from Hong Kong. I graduated from Rutgers University with a triple B.A. in Psychology, Philosophy, and Communications (Go Knights!), and worked in tech startups and educational companies before following my heart straight to TC.


I’m especially interested in the intersections of big data, technology, games, and the classroom. The “big idea” questions that drive me include:

–       What are some more effective ways we can use technological interventions to convey ideas (concepts, abstract systems and structures, complex interactions) more powerfully and interactively?

–       What kind of fruitful cognition occurs in play, exploration, and invention that can be co-opted for learning?

–       How can we use the latest advancements in collecting, analyzing, and representing data to empower both teachers and learners?

–       What are the needs in the classroom that teachers feel like are not being met by Ed. Tech, and how do we design tech to meet these needs more thoughtfully?

–       How can we re-frame what kinds of skills and competencies are necessary to succeed in today’s global economy, and how do we teach or facilitate these skills in the classroom?


Of course, this is only a part of a list that continues to grow every day! But, to complete a dissertation means to drill down on the specifics of one very robust idea, investigate it, and add just the tiniest addition of insight to the world previously unknown – I love this explanation of a Ph.D, so wonderfully depicted by a guy named Matt Might: http://matt.might.net/articles/phd-school-in-pictures/


My calling is in investigating the metacognitive (“thinking about thinking”) responses to failure that occur in educational games, and how such cognitive processes are 1) related to formal learning later on, and 2) transferrable to learning contexts outside of the game.  An illustration: imagine yourself as a 10-year-old, playing a particularly difficult level of Mario. You fail the level, which then sets off a flurry of emotional and cognitive responses – oh crap! How did that happen? What did I do wrong? Do I actually know what went wrong? How do I fix it? What do I have to avoid next time? These metacognitive judgments – the appraisal of states of knowing, locating sources of cognitive dissonance, identifying gaps in knowledge, and employing strategies to adjust or reconcile this – are precisely the kinds of cognitive behaviors we want kids to engage deeply in when learning! The big questions are, then, do these kinds of behaviors in an educational game actually improve learning later on, and whether developing these kinds of skills in a game setting will transfer into more traditional learning contexts later on.


It is a privilege to be joining a pool of educators, big idea people, and all-around smarty pants here at Riverdale to address some of these issues that are so pressing in today’s education landscape. We’ve been lucky to have already observed a design challenge with Riverdale’s 9th graders, attended a talk on finding the balance between passions and pragmatism (keep an eye out for that post, coming up!), and collaborated on a design jam on how to re-think high school with some of RCS’s top educators. I look forward to hearing from the rest of the Riverdale community, and discussing (and likely debating!) some of the latest topics in education and technology with my cohort Jenna, Elsa, and Melissa here at rethinkED!


Talk to you all soon!


[rethinking Purpose & Passion]: multipotentiality vs. one true calling… *

rethinking passion…*

Last year, both Elsa and I wrote about rethinking passion [here and here]. I argued that childhood should be about exploration, rather than passion. I also cited the importance of hard work, setbacks, and struggles in developing passion. Similarly, Elsa spoke of shifting from a “passion” mindset to a “craftman’s” mindset, which she describes as “a relentless focus on activating one’s unique potential by continually pushing to develop one’s skills and acquire new ones” A craftsman mindset involves deliberate practice of valuable skills.

what is purpose?…*

This year, rethinkED…* has been thinking about purpose and how to instill purpose in students. Yet what is purpose? Personally, I argue against the notion of pushing students to define one unified purpose for their lives. Instead, I believe we should cultivate multiple purposes and overall purposefulness in our students. Rather than having just one purpose, do with purpose.


Especially in today’s society, it seems rather rare to have just one passion. With this in mind, I was enthralled by a recent TED talk by Emilie Wapnick, a career coach who speaks to those without “one true calling.” Recollecting the overwhelming anxiety of the question “what do you want to be when you grow up,” she explains that it is not that students have no interest but rather than they sometimes have too many. She says that,

“while this question inspires kids to dream about what they could be, it does not inspire them to dream about all that they could be”

This question is part of the overall societal pressure we place upon children to pick one thing, to choose which of the things that they love and make a career out of it. She continues,

“The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture. It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth, and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it.”

However, we leave many, many people out of this narrative. People who do many wonderful things across their lives, who have many things they are curious about and many different things that they want to do. People she calls multipotentialites.


She defines multipotentialites as those with many pursuits, the modern-day “Renaissance” men (and women). Rather than thinking of this flitting from interest to interest as a limitation, Emilie cites three super powers that multipotentialites can possess:

  1. Idea synthesis- Combining two or more fields and finding something new and exciting at the intersection. Innovation happens at these intersections.
  2. Rapid learning- Multipotentialites are comfortable at being beginners or “accomplished novices”.
  3. Adaptability- With many skills, you can morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation.

She states that there are many complex, multidimensional world problems that need solving right now, and the ideal team for such problems is a specialist and a multipotentialite paired together. She concludes by stating

“…embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly — multipotentialites, the world needs us.”


Overall, Emilie does not advocate for one path through life but rather believes that we should support individuals who aim for breadth (multipotentialites) as much as we support individuals who aim for depth (specialists). This fits with the idea of exploration alongside passion.

However, one criticism that could be put upon Emilie’s argument is that most students would rather be multipotentialites, flitting from interest to interest, rather than dig in and put hard work into one specific thing. In terms of grit and deliberate practice, it is far easier to shift gears when something gets hard or tedious. In terms of success, research suggests that being gritty and putting in the work is very important.

Purposeful, gritty pursuit of multiple passions…*

Instead, I would argue that the ideal falls somewhere in the middle. We should encourage students to pursue multiple passions, but we should also discourage students from straying from an interest when it simply becomes too challenging. Further, in order to use the “idea synthesis” superpower, students must actively reflect on the themes and ways in which their various interests connect. I am passionate about education research and studio art. I can cultivate these two passions simultaneously. More importantly, I seek inspiration from my artwork in my research. I seek respite from the intellectual rigor of school in the flow state I get when painting. I integrate the two when I design research studies and develop compelling presentations. My overall philosophy on life, truth, and knowledge is inextricably tied to the meaning I’ve distilled from these pursuits.

Your life does not need to be played on a single instrument. Yet only through hard work will you play any one instrument well. And only through learning how to combine the sounds of each together in harmony can you create a symphony…* 


#RethinkHighSchool with XQ: The Super School Project

This month, the rethinkED team is getting excited about XQ: The Super School Project, Launched by Laurene Powell Jobs, this design challenge invites teams to reimagine the next American High School. Winners will receive support and $50 million to make their idea into a reality.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 2.50.26 PM

Source: http://xqsuperschool.org/challenge

According to the XQ institute, XQ is the agile and flexible intelligence that prepares students for a more connected world, a rapidly changing future, and a lifetime of learning. It is a combination of IQ (cognitive capabilities) and EQ (emotional intelligence or how we learn in the world).

Soliciting “What If..”s from the world, the XQ project is a design thinking challenge operating on a massive scale. The challenge is broken into 4 phases: 1) Assemble a team, 2) Discover the landscape of education, 3) Design a super school for the community, and 4) Develop a formidable plan.

RethinkED is going to team up with other innovative and talented individuals for an intense day of dreaming and designing next week. As you’ve seen, we have a lot of ideas surround character education, interdisciplinary pedagogies, and community-focused learning, and we are excited to merge these into a coherent plan of action to #RethinkHighSchool.

P.S. The rethinkED team has recently grown! We have two new members, and we are super excited for you to meet them.


Hip Hop + History = Alexander Hamilton: The Musical…*

Hip hop history…*

Back in 2014, I wrote about Pentecostal Pedagogy and the idea that we can increase learner engagement by relating to students — particularly urban students — through modes of communication that they relate to, such as rap. This was at the forefront of my mind earlier this month when I went to see Hamilton: The Musical – a new broadway musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and the “making of America”… through hip hop music.


The play was by far one of the best Broadway shows I’ve ever seen. An educational, witty, and fairly accurate portrayal of the beginning of our nation, Hamilton converts what could feel like a very dry topic and put a fresh spin on it, communicating through a fusion of hip hop, jazz, and broadway music that is fun and relatable. The writer Lin-Manual Miranda chose Alexander Hamilton – an immigrant and orphan – as the protagonist of this historical play. He cast himself – a man of color – as Hamilton, and overall the cast is far more diverse than one might expect for a story about a bunch of old white men.  In doing so, he creates a relatable story for many Americans who may have trouble empathizing with the old white men that dominate our history books.

With verses like the one below, he paints the picture of a man born without privilege, who succeeded through hard work and beat the odds to become a founding father of our nation:

The ten-dollar founding father without a father
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
By being a lot smarter
By being a self-starter
By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter.

One of the repeating lines of the play — “I’m just like my country – I’m young, scrappy, and hungry. And I’m not throwin’ away my shot” — speaks to the timeless passion of ambitious youth.

The play uses rap battles for cabinet meetings, succinctly explaining Jefferson and Hamilton’s differing opinions on monetary policy or whether or not to send aid to the French Revolution.

The musical also approaches high-level issues, such as the way in which history is spun by those who live to tell the story. It develops multidimensional characters, such as Aaron Burr, displaying the complexity of politics and “right” and “wrong”.

Hamilton serves as a wonderful example of how to make history approachable and engaging for students. This play could be an excellent Preparation for Future Learning activity that would set the stage for a more traditional classroom discussion about the revolutionary war, our founding fathers, and the subjective nature of history.

While you are waiting to get your hands on tickets to this incredible performance, I’d highly recommend checking out the soundtrack, available on NPR FIRST LISTEN and also available for purchase on iTunes.





unleashing creativity with d.global…*

Hello, fellow rethinkers! I took a break this past summer from posting, but I am excited to be back and to share excited ideas about education with you.

This past weekend I participated in a d.global workshop, a design thinking challenge that the d.school at Stanford is taking around the world with the goal of unleashing the creative potential in all of us.nycinvite

In this seven-hour workshop, we went through a design thinking process to seek new insights and understandings towards large problems attendees were facing in their day-to-day lives. We began with three postures – short activities meant to establish a culture with specific norms and values. I discuss two below:

creative postures…*

Our first posture – “I am a tree”- brought everyone into the mindset of stepping forward and taking risks. This is an improv game where one person begins by standing as a tree in the center of the circle and states “I am a tree.” Next, another team member steps in and states what she is to complete the setting. For example, “I am a bird.” A third person then steps in and could say, “I am bird poop.” The first person steps out of the scene and chooses one person to remove as well, and then the game continues. Here’s a youtube video of an improv team performing “I am a tree,” since it is far easier to understand if you watch it happening.

After reflecting on risk-taking, we began our second posture – “Tada!” This game seeks to reframe failure. Teams of two play a variety of counting games where it is very easy to mess up. After reflecting on how our body language and demeanor was affected by these mess ups, we were instructed to instead shout “Tada!” each time our group failed, complete with a step forward and spirit fingers.

design challenges…*

In an ideation session, we developed questions pertinent to our own life goals and struggles. I focused on how to seek a work/life balance and how to better structure my days.IMG_7768

We then shared and synthesized these questions into more broad goals that groups of 5-6 could rally around. My group asked “How to design a life that has meaningful impact and is meaningful / life-giving to you?” Other questions are included in the photos below.IMG_7766IMG_7770

In a surprise twist, we were then tasked with seeking inspiration and ideas to solve another group’s problem, rather than our own. Our group was looking into the question “how to find passion and a reason to get out of bed in the morning” We spent time with the other group, building empathy and deeper understand of their question. We realized that the members of this group had diverse reasons for asking this question. Some were overwhelmed. Others lacked focus or drive. Generally, they all had issues around goal-setting and motivation. With this in mind, we began our three hour exploration of NYC, seeking inspiration and new perspectives to bring back with us.

how to life a motivated and passionate life...*

Our journey to seek empathy and new perspectives led us to talk to many people, and the conversations we had were wonderful and inspiring. A barista at a local coffee shop spoke of how his day job paid the bills while his passion was to become a theologian. He was slowly obtaining a Masters in Theology at night. He advised us to first focus on what has to get done, and then focus on what you’d like to get done. An employee at Old Navy worked two jobs during the day and found both to be fun and fulfilling. Outside of work, she was an aspiring dancer. Her advice to those who dread leaving bed in the morning was to be patient and to mix it up every once in a while.

Last, we spoke with a highly regarded trainer at a luxury fitness enter. He spoke of setting a combination of short and long-term goals and holding yourself accountable by writing things down and telling your friends or family about your goals.

Our final task as a group was to create a gift for the group we were designing for, based on our experiences that day. We decided to combine all of the nuggets of wisdom we noted throughout our exploration into a “choose your own adventure” poster, shown below:





The group designing for us gifted us with a line from the poem Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson shown below. This line is a beautiful representation of the desire to do good in the world that our group was struggling with.

I felt invigorated by the exploration of my city and inspired by the wonderful minds I spent the day designing with. This year, I hope to bring a similar experience to the Riverdale community.

Thank you, d.global, for a tremendous experience!



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