Field Guide is the brainchild of design thinking champions at Gould Academy, an independent boarding school that houses the Marlon Family IDEAS Center, and Adam Burk, co-founder of the Portland nonprofit Treehouse Institute. Gould Academy opened the IDEAS Center to give its students, faculty, and guests a dedicated space to build creative confidence and problem solving skills by learning the design thinking process.
Sara Shifrin is somewhat of an English teacher gone rogue. After 20 years of empathizing with protagonists and their conflicts and dilemmas, she discovered design thinking and began to re-frame what being educated means. A designer of flexible classroom spaces and making studios, she now stands at the intersection of education, design thinking, and doing as director of the Marlon Family IDEAS Center at Gould Academy. She inspires teachers to discover innovative ways for young people to awaken their empathic selves through the power of doing. And for her own doing, she leads design thinking activities with the Mahoosuc Land Trust in western Maine and the Tanzania Education Coporation’s schools, in Karatu, Tanzania.
As co-founder of Treehouse Institute and a Registered Maine guide, Adam is well suited for this adventure. Treehouse Institute is an interdisciplinary nonprofit focused on social innovation. Based in Portland, Maine, Treehouse connects people, places, and ideas to fuel innovations that foster more resilient and prosperous communities. Efforts include TEDxDirigo, Design Thinking is for Everyone, Portland Global Shapers Hub, #CreateYourCity – an open sourced pop up event, and more. As a wilderness guide, Adam has led people over land and over water to discover new places and insights about them selves.
Adam’s life and work is dedicated to living well in his place and with others. In looking for methods and mindsets that reliably produce elegant solutions to meaningful problems, he found human centered design. Rooted in empathy with a bias for action, it’s a perfect compliment to ecological and systems thinking, which he studied in graduate school, and practiced as a naturalist and wilderness guide.