Imaginarium: Denver Public Schools Innovation Lab

In the fall semester of 2015, Tessa co-taught the ASSET tools in Brent Modak’s study skills elective. Later that semester, Tessa’s high school director, Mr. Quirk, passed away. Mr. Quirk brought mindfulness and positive psychology to Tessa’s high school—completely changing Tessa’s life. It was Mr. Quirk’s vision for education that inspired Tessa to teach these tools in high schools such Brent Modak’s study skills class.

In the wake of Mr. Quirk’s death, Tessa realized that ASSET would not scale if it was just herself teaching these tools in high schools. The mission of ASSET changed: create more Mr. Quirks in the world.

Tessa took the stage of the Denver Public Schools Imaginarium Innovation Lab’s Design Challenge in February of 2016. She shared the story of Mr. Quirk and pitched an idea to launch an ASSET Summer Institute—training several teachers throughout the district in the tools Mr. Quirk brought to her high school.

The pitch was hit—Tessa won the Design Challenge, became an innovator of the Imaginarium, was equipped with $9,000 to launch the ASSET Summer Institute.

With the funds, Brent and Tessa built the first iteration of ASSET’s curriculum and launched the summer institute training 9 teachers from throughout Denver Public Schools.

After the training, the Imaginarium’s Research Partner, Signe Hawley, embarked on a journey to better understand the impact of the curriculum on students and teachers. In her 2-month study on ASSET, Signe found 66% increased their mindfulness and 50% reduced their self-perceived stress.

The Imaginarium was such a significant help to ASSET as a thought and research partner, Tessa and Brent asked to continue to work with the organization for a second year, conducting a year-long case study on three ASSET schools.

In the fall of 2017, Signe launched a second case study on ASSET following the curriculum in 3 different schools: North High School, Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design, and DSST: Green Valley Ranch HS. Signe designed this study to focus on thought partnership as Tessa would speak monthly with point people at each school to get feedback on the curriculum and what could be done to improve.

This case study found that 60% of students decreased their self-perceived stress and their reduction in stress was statistically significant. 92% of students reported using the ASSET tools inside or outside of the classroom. All three of the ASSET case study schools continued program implementation in the 2018-19 academic year.

At ASSET, we are so grateful for our Imaginarium thought partners and for giving us our first dollars to launch.

Signe, Brendan, Megan, Sarabeth, Kelli, Sophie—thank you for all that you’ve done to help ASSET get to where it is today!