Creative Thinking by Design

Design-Based Learning at Center X

The goal of the Design-Based Learning Project is to introduce educators to the Design-Based Learning methodology through high quality professional development and coaching.
We work collaboratively with schools, districts, teachers, educational specialists, and administrators to support the development of engaging, socially conscious, student-centered, interdisciplinary curricula that address the needs of diverse learners while meeting grade level and content standards.

Our Partners

Center for City Building Education

Southeast DREAMS Magnet (LAUSD)

San Gabriel Unified School District

UCLA Lab School

About Design-Based Learning

The Design-Based Learning at Center X Project applies and builds upon the Doreen Nelson Method of Design-Based Learning ™. Successfully taught in K–12 classrooms since 1971, this student-centered teaching methodology engages students in seeking and solving curriculum-based problems as they build a city or other small, contextual model in the classroom.

Design-Based Learning is structured around Essential Questions described in the standard K–12 curricula content. Encompassing all subject areas, Design-Based Learning is an interdisciplinary methodology that ignites creativity and motivates civic engagement to teach critical thinking and problem solving.

What Makes It Unique & Effective?

In a Design-Based Learning classroom, the teacher acts as a facilitator, observer, and guide. Students learn that their opinions count. They gain confidence in explaining and justifying their thinking as they try out ideas in a safe environment and find that there are many right answers and perspectives.

Design-Based Learning is a research-based methodology integrating civics and life skills to deliver the required K–12 curricula. Teachers have the flexibility to determine how and when to use a comprehensive sequence of connected, curriculum-related Design Challenges to teach the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Visual and Performing Arts Standards, English Language Development Standards, California History-Social Science Standards Framework, etc.

The Design-Based Learning Project is proud to announce the publication of Cultivating Curiosity: Teaching and Learning Reimagined, written by distinguished educator, author, and Founding Director of the Design-Based Learning Project, Doreen Gehry Nelson. The book includes explanations of the methodology’s 6 ½ Steps of Backwards Thinking™ process as well as discussions on how to launch creative and critical thinking in students and the personal experiences of K-12 educators who practice Design-Based Learning in their classrooms.

Not only does DBL allow my kids to think creatively on a consistent basis, it allows them to take a subject like math that seems abstract and foreign to them, and turn it into something they’re actually building.”

Rana Masri
Del Mar High School, SGUSD

The students are analyzing, thinking about what works best, and taking their learning seriously. I have never found anything that works better to engage learning than this methodology.”

Georgia Singleton
4th Grade Teacher, Roosevelt Elementary, SGUSD