Powderhouse Studios is a research and design organization working to translate the best characteristics of creative workplaces, studios, and labs to the lives of youth. We're starting by creating a public high school in Somerville, MA. And we're looking to expand our founding team.
At its best, creative work demands that we be imaginative and collaborative. It's full of deep ideas. It's defined by authentic projects with real audiences. It's interdisciplinary. It calls us to do our best because we care about it.
We're trying to create such a place as a public school, reinventing schools' traditional constraints along the way, because we believe people learn best in situations like these— in research labs, boxing gyms, artists' studios, and grandparents' kitchens.
Computation and storytelling
But these creative workplaces have a focus, a practice, a common toolset. This is part of how they do whatever they do well. At Powderhouse, our work will be grounded in computation and narrative: building things with computers and telling stories.
We chose this focus because we believe you only really understand something when you care about it and make something with it yourself. And we believe telling stories and building things with computers are powerful, expressive tools which allow you to do both.
At the same time, computation and narrative cut across disciplines. They can connect to all sorts of passions and curiosities. And because they ask us to articulate and externalize our understandings of the world around us, they give us a chance to better understand our own minds and selves.
So we’re not interested in these tools not because we think the world needs more directors or software engineers. We're interested because they enable people to think deeply while creating excellent creative work, regardless of their backgrounds, interests, or aptitudes.
Creative work through projects
This means staff are more like investigators, mentors, and coaches than instructors or teachers. Staff help youth uncover passions, translate them into projects, and then do those projects well.
We'll be organized into small cohorts of 30–40 youth who will be managed by a team of five staff, their Core Team. We're building our first Core Team now.
Core Team members are responsible for four things:
Doing great creative projects. Anything from recording an album to making an app.
Helping youth define, develop, and realize their own projects and join staff in theirs.
Working with youth to document projects and tell their stories.
And mentoring youth through adolescence, supporting them in making their way into their next chapter.
Without traditional subjects or classes, the work that actually happens in each cohort—the projects and programs young people do—will be developed by each Core Team.
Part of that is about helping young people discover their own interests and translating them into deep projects aligned with those interests. But, people don't always know what they're interested in (or what they could be interested in), much less what great work looks like.
So it's important to us that staff pursue their own interests too, and we believe those efforts will ground much of the work happening at Powderhouse. This means every staff member will mine their interests to develop what we're calling a program of study: a line of inquiry or problem or question generating the projects and programs to which they'll invite youth.
Working on a team
But, a group of people doing great projects isn't quite enough. Working with youth brings other responsibilities to the table which we'll ask you to take on as a Core Team member.
Right now, we are structuring these responsibilities into five positions: a program designer, project manager, and youth advocate, supported by two domain specialists focused on computation and storytelling.
Project Manager — You make sure projects happen on time and under budget. This means putting in place systems and experiences to help youth (and your colleagues) make sure projects are designed, scoped, budgeted, executed, and documented effectively. You don't manage everyone's projects; you help your team do that well.
Program Designer — Designing great programs and projects is hard. Your job is to make sure the programs at Powderhouse run smoothly, engage deep ideas, and support divergent, individualized work. You don't design all the programs and projects people undertake; you work with their colleagues to develop their capacity to design great programs.
Youth Advocate — Whether food insecurity at home, social cliques, or tension in a group project, we believe people need to feel safe, supported, and connected to undertake hard intellectual journeys. You're responsible for bringing all of the non-academic, non-project facets of someone's life into the awareness and management of your team— and then to build your cohort's capacity to deal with life's complexities gracefully, both individually and as a group.
Domain Specialist — Each domain specialist will focus either on computation or storytelling. Unlike the other members of Core Teams, you won't generally be designing full cohort programs. Your job is to design tools, materials, and experiences which develop people's fluency in your domain and weave it into people's projects and programs effectively.
What we’re looking for
We'd love to hear from you if you’re interested in building this kind of creative community with youth.
We are specifically looking for people who:
have a track record of working with youth and doing high quality, creative work.
actually like teens and want to do things with them, not for them or in service to them.
are really great at something young people might authentically care about, whether that is sculpting, computer programming, or something else entirely.
are game to learn new things on the job, in front of young people and colleagues, whether coding, improv, or metal fabrication.
communicate clearly and compellingly, when writing emails to potential partners, explaining complex ideas to novices, or mediating conflict.
have a keen ability to prioritize and get stuff done.
believe young people have the capacity to do impressive, high quality work.
have a strong sense of personal taste and quality.
are willing to fight for what’s best for the young people in their care, even when rules, red tape, or others’ opinions might get in the way.
Read more, apply, and get in touch
You can read more about our model on online. We encourage you to apply if this vision resonates with you, even if the specific positions listed above don’t feel like a perfect match.
Powderhouse Studios is a small, new high school slated to open next year in Somerville. Inspired by the best creative workplaces, studios, and labs, we've redesigned school to build a place like these where teenagers work on projects they care about. Over the past five years, we've been developing Powderhouse Studios with the City of Somerville, alongside hundreds of families, educators, and world...-class school-designers…all under the umbrella of Massachusetts’ Innovation Schools legislation. And now, we're looking to grow our team.