One Stone: Student-Centered and Student-Led

October 05, 2017 by

By Guest Author Tom Vander Ark

This article originally appeared on Getting Smart on March 15, 2017. Tom Vander Ark is author of Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart, and is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital. This blog previews our October 13, 2017 Hot Lunch with One Stone.

Community. Student voice. Opportunity. Accountability for learning.

When speaking with students at One Stone High School in Boise, Idaho, these are just a few of the words I heard frequently when they described what their school is like. Here are several One Stone students sharing their thoughts on what sets their school apart:


One Stone is a student-led and directed nonprofit high school that opened its doors in 2016. The high school is based on a successful after school program where students used design thinking to providing marketing services to local companies and serve the community. The program focuses on empowering students to learn and practice 21st-century skills through experiential service, innovative initiatives and social entrepreneurship.

At the project-based high school, the work is rooted in design thinking, a creative problem solving and innovation discovery process developed at Stanford University’s d.school. At One Stone, they talk about “51ing it,” which refers the fact that it might take more than 50 iterations to get a design right (below).

The school opened in the fall and had to move a couple times because the remodeled office building wasn’t ready for them. That just added to the resilience, creativity, and camaraderie of the culture.

So what’s working at One Stone? The adult educators associated with the program shared their thoughts as well:

The simple answer is everything. But if you look at the environment, you look at the culture, look at the expectation that these kids are putting together for themselves about their life and their purpose, it’s a pretty amazing thing. ~ Roger

It’s about students owning their learning. Specifically, they are tapping into their passions and going deep in that area. ~Blossom

It’s one of the first places that has cracked the code with true, genuine student leadership and engagement. The students are running the show here and they set the bar really high for themselves. ~ Jamie

Disrupt For Good

“Disrupt For Good” is the reoccurring slogan at One Stone, and refers to improving the status quo for lasting change. In addition to the high school, there are three other platforms dedicated to doing this:

  • Project Good: This is the student-led and directed experiential service program that provides an opportunity for a direct connection to the community.
  • Two Birds: A student-led creative services agency that provides real-world experience for students interested in learning about design, marketing and social entrepreneurship by providing affordable creative services to social entrepreneurs, start-ups and other nonprofits.
  • Solution Lab: Organizations, foundations, existing businesses and start-ups can engage a team of One Stone students in design thinking a solution, business idea or a revolutionary product.

Last month the One Stone students produced a benefit, Good for Good--a professional production to support their impact agenda. They all had a job to do, they all benefited from being part of something great for their community.

For more, see: