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, colony, civilization, 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.

Design-Based Learning is rooted in the spatial domain — learning by doing.  It is not arts and crafts. Designed and built by students as solutions to content-related problems, quickly made physical artifacts—a creature or avatar, a shelter, a neighborhood, a colony, a city—open up the high level thinking skills that propel creative thinking. Students learn to express themselves and become agile decision-makers with the ability to use and reuse concepts and big ideas across the curriculum and in multiple settings.

Design-Based Learning is not intended to replace the mandated curricula. Rather, it gives teachers a powerful methodology for presenting engaging subject matter across the disciplines to meet the required content standards and the needs of diverse learners.


San Gabriel Unified School District
Center for City Building Education


Upcoming Events

I am convinced that the work of building a sense of social responsibility is one of the biggest priorities of most educational leaders at the moment. Design-Based Learning not only exercises the mind and thinking skills, but builds the comfort, security, and confidence that working together builds better solutions. DBL brings the elements of exploration, critical thinking, planning, and building to not just support curriculum and standards, but to build that sense of cooperation and mutual responsibility to identify and develop solutions to problems of learning, life and community in a way like nothing I have seen.”

Jeff Seymour

Professor at Cal Poly Pomona and former Superintendent of El Monte City School District

Interested in Design-Based Learning?

We’re gathering interest for partnerships for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Please fill out our form!