When students become entrepreneurs — for education

2 min read

The ropes proved to be a challenge. Last week, at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), Gerardo Ochoa wrapped short white ropes with loops at each end around the wrists of two people, handcuff style, and then looped the ropes so they crossed. The idea, said Songyu Zhu, was for the two people to work together to get themselves apart — an idea that involved twisting and turning and crouching to the ground, as the two people attempted (unsuccessfully) to step through the tangle.

The challenge was an example of an exercise that Ochoa and Zhu plan on using with high school students as part of Prepped, a nonprofit they created this past semester in A132 with teammates Robert Lewis and Ed Magema, all students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Taught by Professor Fernando Reimers, the educational entrepreneurship class allows students to identify a challenge in education and then design an innovative way to address it. Last week at the i-lab, the 24 student-created innovations were presented and then judged.

Classes like these are critical, says Reimers. More than ever, students interested in making real change in education need to think outside the box, he says.

“Educational improvement is typically understood as helping educational institutions become more effective at achieving their goals,” he says, “but the social and economic context is changing more rapidly than education institutions.”