As the pilot year of our Ethics in Action program nears its end, the Ethics Lab team and our partners at Kent Place School are reflecting on the year’s successes and failures, looking ahead to future iterations. The core belief that motivates the program remains unchanged: a creative, ethical mindset in students is one of the best things we, as educators, can equip them with in today’s world. We believe the best way to do that is through scaffolded engagement with complex contexts in a project-based, design-driven learning environment.

Our pilot year has taught us that there is also a valuable professional development opportunity for teachers to gain training in design as a new tool to facilitate student learning. Teachers are an integral part of the program and that’s why, in our next iteration, we plan to implement very strong professional development and teacher training for faculty entering the program. We hope to equip teachers with toolkits and curricula in practical ethics, design methods, and specific content knowledge that they can then take back to their home schools and leverage to educate students more effectively.

The Ethics in Action program aims to export the dynamic studio environment of Ethics Lab to high schools across the country. This expansion of the Lab’s portfolio to target a younger demographic flows naturally from our undergraduate educational efforts. In addition, the program builds on the Kennedy Institute’s pioneering High School Bioethics Curriculum Project (HSBCP) launched in 1998/1999. The HSBCP offered interdisciplinary bioethics teaching workshops to high school teachers across the curriculum. Through these workshops and follow-up the HSBCP offered teachers curriculum and teaching support, education in contemporary bioethics issues, and ongoing research assistance and resource development through the Institute’s Bioethics Research Library.

As part of our ongoing Ethics in Action partnership, Ethics Lab Head of Operations & Product Development Nico Staple and Lab Fellow Jesse Flores have made several trips to the Ethics Institute at Kent Place School over the past months to meet with student teams and continue mentoring their design projects as they work towards the final summit in April.

Last summer, student teams at Kent Place and Trinity Hall schools were tasked with designing pathways forward for ethical issues surrounding food in their local communities. In the process, they’ve heard from industry experts on GMOs, food deserts, local farming, branding of humanely harvested food, and other pressing issues.

Teams are in the final stage of their work, refining prototypes and testing their products and services in the real world (what we at the lab would call “the little squiggle”).

Here’s what some of the groups are up to:

  • Foodel: connect local eateries with food banks to facilitate the donation of excess daily food using driver’s ed students as the transportation from local business to food bank [Website]
  • F.A.T. (Female Athlete Triad): build a community of female athletes (student, local, and professional) to promote mentorship and responsible training and eating
  • Equal Eats: inspire kids to learn about nutrition by encouraging them to create beautiful and playful plates of healthy meals and submit photos to an online competition
  • Full Basket: pilot a mentorship program between 5th graders and 1st graders to encourage them to eat healthier, starting with lunch in the cafeteria
  • GROW: establish a pay-it-forward program with local businesses in which people add an item to their purchase that becomes an in-kind donation to people in need