At the core of Project Wayfinder is a set of thoughtfully designed tools, exercises, and activities which engage students on a level beyond a typical curriculum.
how we’re building it
The Wayfinder Navigation Toolkit is set of thoughtfully designed tools, exercises, activities, and media which help students discover and explore a sense of purpose through the metaphor of wayfinding. This content is arranged in a master sequence, called the Wayfinder Journey Track, which builds on itself as it moves through the phases of Self-Awareness, Focus Outside the Self, and Empowered Ability to Make Things Happen.
We are building out this content to be used over the span of 3 years in high school (ex: sophomore, junior, senior), but it could expand or contract to fit other time frames. We’re designing it primarily for high school Advisory programs, but know that it could live in a variety of other places like counseling programs.
Although all students start at the same point at the beginning of the Journey Track, there is an increasing level of flexibility to choose from multiple options the farther along you go. This gives teachers the ability to customize the content for the needs of their students, and also builds their own capacity to be confident wayfinders of an experience that they are ultimately designing and leading.
We also give teachers the “grab bag” option to pick exercises on a particular day if something relevant happens in the life of a student and a specific activity is called for (for example, the day after college admissions letters and there is a need for students to do an activity on how to cope and/or celebrate decisions they heard back.)
Structurally, all of the elements in our Wayfinder Navigation Toolkit fall into one of the following four block types:
Our content is designed to flex across one or several 45-60 minute periods. Each piece of content will be “tagged” in multiple ways including:
10 Core Wayfinder Characteristics that they aim to build in our students
Meta-Level capacities: Self-Awareness, Focus outside the self, or Empowered ability to make things happen
- Type of content (Story, Activity, Reflection, Project)
Why "Wayfinding" instead of "finding purpose?"
The types of discussions and actions our activities provoke are naturally quite deep, but we have very intentionally wrapped them in language that is NOT “purpose”-heavy. We’ve observed again and again how “finding a purpose” or even talking about purpose becomes a very weighty topic for teens (and adults!) and can quickly result in feelings of stress or even failure. The very last thing we want is for having a sense of purpose to be one more thing to achieve.
Instead, we’ve flipped the conversation and language from “purpose” to being about “becoming a Wayfinder.” The navigational-oriented language and imagery about wayfinding (as compared with purpose) is fun, exciting, and action-provoking. It flips students’ mindsets from being fearful and closed to curious and open.
We’ve seen students totally captivated by the story of the Polynesian Wayfinders. Having a real-life analog for what being a wayfinder in life is like is tremendously inspiring for students, and transforms the experience from being purely educational to feeling aspirational, exploratory, and adventurous.
a note about form
As designers, we believe strongly that the form of these tools and activities is just as important as the content itself. Form (whether physical or digital) communicates intent and value, and a thoughtfully-designed, interesting, unusual form communicates to young people that this topic is worth paying attention to.
Our vision is to design tools, activities, and media that consistently delight and engage students and that go beyond the familiar. We want to create content that demands attention and inspires effort. We’re designing our content such that it never feels, looks, or sounds like any typical classroom material (PPTs, textbooks, rainy day videos, etc.). We want to signal that this is a different type of experience and way of learning.
Here are examples of a few Wayfinder tools and activities we have designed:
INTERESTED IN BECOMING A PILOT SCHOOL FOR our WAYFINDER navigation toolkit?
If your school would be interested in potentially becoming a pilot school for the 2017-18 school year, our application will open on March 1 for our Teacher Training in June 2017. Our first Training will be aimed at immersing educators in Wayfinder content, and preparing them to lead students through the first year of the Wayfinder Journey Track.