Let me know if you would are interested in hosting a Preflight challenge in your class!

What's the value for me, as a teacher?

  1. The challenges connect class curriculum to the real world, making school relevant and boosting student engagement

  2. The students practice relevant problem-solving and creative skills that will help them succeed in their future

  3. You get to inspire students to pursue work that excites them

  4. You get experience with the design-thinking framework, which can help you tackle a variety of other challenges you face

How do I find professionals?

Finding the right person is worth the effort. Here are some places to look:

  1. Staff network

  2. Local businesses

  3. Parent network

  4. Alumni network

  5. Local business associations and service clubs

  6. Local colleges and universities


Check out this document for an email template

Here are some some optional steps to consider adding to the challenges:


  • The teacher may want to have the students do research on the topic or profession to prepare them for the challenge.

  • A design-thinking workshop could give students an understanding of the problem solving strategy.

  • Students could develop questions for the professional related to both the topic of the challenge and the professional's experience


During the challenge:

  • If the professional is willing, they can return to school or Skype in while students are working to give feedback.



  • Ideally, the professional can give students next steps to take if they are interested in the professional’s work. These could include:

    • A chat after class

    • Online classes to take

    • Local volunteer opportunities

    • A job shadow day

    • Internship opportunities

Different Approaches

Here are a few different ideas on ways to modify the challenge format to fit your school's needs.


A Preflight challenge as described in the idea with professional visits at beginning and end.



The professional visits at the beginning and end of a longer project or unit. The professional is supporting the school’s material instead of hosting their own challenge. (e.g. electrical engineer in a Physics unit about electricity)

Benefits: Allows school to build off of existing projects or units instead of inventing new material

Challenges: There isn’t really an industry-specific challenge component.


Multi-Class Challenge

The challenge spreads out, with different classes taking on different aspects of the problem. (For example, in a startup business challenge, the students could write a business plan (English), make a financial plan (math) and study business throughout history (history).)

Benefits: Real world problems require multiple disciplines to solve. In situations where students study multiple subjects with the same peer group, this format could spread the load between teachers and subjects.

Challenges: This could be difficult when students switch classes and teachers.


Preview Day:

Instead of the professional coming into class, the class goes to the workplace of the professional. The change in environment makes the time engaging and allows the students to meet multiple people within the organization. The focus would be more on the workplace preview and less on the challenge. (Short activities could be done to immerse the students in the work of the organization) An alternate use of this approach would be to host an optional preview day outside of school after a Preflight challenge.

Benefits: The change of scenery gets the students even more interested in the work.

Challenges: Planning field trips during school is very labor-intensive. The challenge component would be very short due to time limitations.


Professional Ecosystem

Between two and four professionals from different positions in the same industry visit the class to give their views on their work. They share what role they play in solving challenges and working within their team. They still host a challenge and give feedback at the end.Example: A doctor, nurse, radiologist and pharmacist could come in for a health challenge; or an actor, set designer, costume designer and scriptwriter in a theater challenge.

Benefits: The students get multiple perspectives, thereby giving them ideas about how different people with different skills interact in the real world. Also, coordinating employees could be easy if they already knew each other from their workplace.

Challenges: It could be more difficult to coordinate multiple professionals with different schedules. 


Elective Class

This would be an entire class where students learned the design thinking method through engaging in more in-depth Preflight challenges. The students are completely immersed in the challenges and have more time to produce good results and build lasting connections.

Benefits: Lots of freedom in the curriculum. The students would learn more and form closer relationships with professionals.

Challenges: Who would teach the class? Most students already fill up their electives with art/music/language. Would this class only attract motivated kids who are already confident in their future?


The Internship Model

Businesses come into class looking for usable results and ideas. The best ideas or most interested students could get internship opportunities. This would more applicable to a college class, but could also work in high school.

Benefits: The challenges connect to out-of-class opportunities. The businesses get great young talent and fresh ideas.

Challenges: Would high school students be able to consistently produce usable results? Would companies be willing to offer these opportunities?