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Natural Pod works at the intersection of pedagogy, design and sustainability. So when the team read the opening statement of the book Design Thinking for School Leaders: Five Roles and Mindsets That Ignite Positive Change, our interest was piqued.

What if education leaders approached their work with the perspective of a designer? This new perspective of seeing the world differently is desperately needed in schools and begins with school leadership.

Written by Alyssa Gallagher and Kami Thordarson, Design Thinking for School Leaders, really feels like a fresh perspective on how to transform education. We think it would be an excellent resource for anyone in a leadership position hoping to effect real change. Ideal for those looking to make an impact, interrupt the status quo and inspire their team while doing so.

‘Design Thinking for School Leaders explores the changing landscape of leadership and offers practical ways to reframe the role of school leader using Design Thinking, one step at a time. Leaders can shift from “accidental designers” to “design-inspired leaders,” acting with greater intention and achieving greater impact. You’ll learn how viewing the world through a more empathetic lens—a critical first step on the path to becoming a design-inspired leader—can raise your awareness of the uniqueness of your teachers and students and prompt you to question the ways in which they experience your school.’


Gallagher and Thordarson detail five specific roles to help you identify opportunities for positively impacting students, teachers, districts, parents, and the community:

  1. Opportunity Seeker. Shifts from problem-solving to problem-finding.
  2. Experience Architect. Designs and curates learning experiences.
  3. Rule Breaker. Challenges the way things are “always” done.
  4. Producer. Gets things done and creates rapid learning cycles for teams.
  5. Storyteller. Captures the hearts and minds of a community.



Alyssa Gallagher is an educational consultant, author, leader, and speaker. She is the head of education, North America at BTS Spark, where she focuses on developing the next generation of educational leaders.

Gallagher has led school leadership teams through the process of using design thinking to solve wicked problems and launch strategic plans. She enjoys coaching leaders to help them leverage the capability, creativity, and intelligence of everyone on their team.

Having worked in a variety of roles from school principal to assistant superintendent, Gallagher understands the complexity of education leadership and is passionate about improving the learning experiences created in schools. She is constantly exploring “What if …?” and works to support radical change in education.


Kami Thordarson is principal and school Designer at Campbell School of Innovation and is involved with the design thinking movement in K–12 education, engaging students and teachers with learning experiences that focus on authenticity and relevance.

She leads schools and districts in integrating, not only technology, but also innovative practices that fully move students into more personalized learning experiences. She values the challenge of helping school leaders develop real-world classrooms in which teachers facilitate and lead students through work that empowers them to have an effect in the world. Now also an author, she has worked in many roles as a public educator, from classroom teacher to professional development and curriculum designer.


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