At the NuVu Studio, “every student has the ability to create something,” or so says Chief Creative Officer Saba Ghole. And not only do they have the ability to create something, but they’re able to teach themselves, far away from the traditional lecture halls where, instead of engaging with their work, students are fidgeting, disinterested and distracted.
Located locally in Central Square, NuVu is a full-time magnet innovation center focused on high school students. Hoping to foster creative problem solving, collaboration and presentation skills, NuVu follows an architectural studio model — a space where Ghole believes “students can develop their creative thinking process.”
Ghole admits she went through a very traditional public school system, never really connecting with the content or learning on her own until she participated in MIT’s architecture school, where she met her co-founder, Saeed Arida. Together, they followed a similar model, where coaches led them through problem-solving exercises as opposed to the standard lecture that lacked even an ounce of collaboration.
Arida’s doctoral research focused on teaching creativity, which is where the idea for NuVu originally stemmed from. Although Ghole says they were first trying to target an older audience, Arida met with Beaver Country Day School to collaborate on a pilot program based on his PhD research. Along with fellow NuVu co-founder David Wang, a PhD student in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, they ran the pilot program in the spring of 2010, involving 10 students who tested the idea. After seeing success, NuVu signed the school on as a founding partner that fall and officially began its program. NuVu also brought Sean Stevens on board, who now serves as the “Prototyping Guru.”
Through their partnership, Beaver’s now sends 20 students every trimester to NuVu. Spanning nearly 12 weeks, each trimester has a different theme, whether it be government, food or, this summer’s theme: superheroes. Under each theme, NuVu curates a range of studios focused on different disciplines. For example, the superheroes category is broken down into “super gizmos,” “comic book,” “super vehicle,” “super fashion,” “video game” and “super film.” Students work their way through the various studios over the course of the trimester, developing their creative thinking process by pitching ideas to work on of their own.
Beyond providing them with the theme, Ghole says “students have no knowledge of the topic, and they begin at ground zero.” Coaches guide students through the problem-solving process, helping them refine their understanding and prospective to get to that creation of a final product, whether it be a film project, interactive art piece or some sort of robotic. “There’s very little seminar time,” Ghole admits. “It’s really about discussion, and getting the students inspired and then really engaging with their particular project.”
NuVu has also begun engaging with schools from different cities and states. Although the main program is based in Cambridge, they’ve also partnered with the Phoenix Charter Academy in Chelsea, Mass., and the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge in Louisiana. This year, they’ll also be in Florida, where they hope they can start partnering with other local universities.
In the Cambridge studio, about 35 percent of the coaches and mentors are MIT and Harvard PhD students who’ve been able to share their knowledge and research projects with the younger students. This summer, someone from the High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media Lab will be coming in to work with the students on “super fashion,” sharing their research on the intersection between simple textiles and technology.
Tuition is just over $6,000 per student, although scholarships are available. Coaches also get paid, because NuVu is, as Ghole describes it, a full-time job. “We want to show we’re as committed to the coaches as they are to us,” Ghole says.
In the video below, students vouch for why NuVu is such an amazing program. Considering the film was developed by a group of NuVu students, it’s hard to disagree the studio is developing life-long creative and critical thinking skills.