November 30, 2016 | Dearborn, MI
“Hack It Out” – Henry Ford Learning Institute (HFLI) and School Retool Collaborate to Brainstorm Improvements with Michigan School Leaders

School Retool is a professional development program that helps school principals and leaders redesign their schools’ culture. They do this by creating “hacks” – mini experiments that they can perform in their schools. The hacks start small and lead into deeper learning.


School Retool was developed at the Institute of Design at Stanford in partnership with IDEO. The Henry Ford Learning Institute, which develops Design Thinking workshops, coaching and resources to support STEAM learning objectives, has been working with School Retool for the last eight months. The and HFLI have had a relationship since 2007, making collaboration ideal. Centered around behaviors and design, principals from all over the state of Michigan brainstorm their hacks, improvements they’d like to see in their schools, and work to determine how to implement them to better the education of their students.


“Principals, school leaders, never have time to get together and brainstorm in a setting like this, and they never get this kind of support,” said Christopher Patten, associate director of design thinking at HFLI. “This is a very action-oriented experience for them, and that combined with the support they’re getting from the leaders at School Retool, is really great, it’s an excellent opportunity.”


“I think it’s important to leave the building and have the opportunity to think – oftentimes, we don’t have time to just think,” said Dr. Curtis Lewis, principal at the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies. “When I leave the building, I’m constantly checking my phone and my email, so it’s valuable to really force us to put those things away and think; we don’t spend enough time doing that.”


One of the hacks Dr. Lewis wants to focus on during the program is a way to further engage his students in critical thinking, improving the deeper learning experience for them. “I want to leave here with some strategies, some ways to think about how I can address that concern, getting my students to think more critically than they already do,” he said.


There are four School Retool events in Detroit that these school leaders will attend, and after each one, they’ll have something to work on before the next meeting. The format for the program helps them identify what their aspirations are for their schools, to break those down into more specific areas and, finally, to come up with effective solutions.