Designing Tomorrow: The HBHS BaD Pathway

By Sam Ekstedt and Aiden Jones

March, 25th 2024


It's very easy to fall into the line of thinking that you're not very smart. That you're bad at a certain school subject, and suddenly you're the dumbest thing to breathe air. It's almost a perfect guarantee that everyone has a mental story like that that they tell themselves, even that one kid in your math class who somehow seemingly understands every mathematical equation that has and will ever be discovered. The thing is, it's just a story. It's often misattributed to Einstein, but the idea that "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid," rings true no matter who really said it. 


It's essential that our school system isn't forcing fish to climb trees, that we've got lakes, and that we've got options. That's the need the HBHS Business and Design, or BaD pathway rose to meet with its American History by Design Class (CTE) for Juniors, its Entrepreneurship class (CTE) for seniors, and soon it's Algebra 1 by Design and Photography by Design (CTE) open to Freshmen next year. 


Around seven years ago, the seeds for what many consider a life-changing curriculum were planted. Nick Schwab, an HBHS teacher who's been teaching here for nineteen years, went around California, visiting schools on the cutting edge of education, moving beyond what is done in the traditional classroom and its expectations. These schools created incredibly innovative learning experiences, environments, and curriculum for students. 


Seven years later, the BaD pathway is in full swing, empowering students to cultivate their unique strengths. Students not far off from graduating to adulthood are encouraged to think less like students and cultivate practical skills and products for a real audience that they can use to land future jobs. "What we're trying to build here is for a student who's looking for a different way to do things… a more ambiguous and vague approach that puts them more in charge of their learning," explained Schwab.



Take a look at the student led redesign project of the podcast room by 2024 BaD Entrepreneurship class



The students work in concert with Schwab, consistently testing the current curriculum/learning space and improving on what the previous class year had accomplished. They're encouraged to never settle on a status quo and think like entrepreneurs. They are in control of their learning in every aspect, from putting away chairs if they don't want to sit to designing and ordering furniture for whole rooms in the class. The BaD classroom and its pathway are constantly in flux. You could walk into the classroom today and five years from now, and it's guaranteed there will be dramatic changes. 


Schwab explained that when creating this program, the aim of the game was "Integration… So you could get in-depth on things without requiring additional time." He, alongside a few other teachers, sat with a student throughout their periods to get a look into what their day-to-day felt like. He went so far as to sit in the chairs they sat in and found that while the classes these students were in were great and incredibly important, there was no connection between them. “They were getting six sets of information, six sets of assignments, and projects all in one day,” recounted Schwab. 


There had to be another approach. From that thought, the American History by Design class, as well as the Algebra 1 by Design and Photography by Design classes were born. They combined two related subjects all built on project-based learning that deepened the student's understanding of both topics. They aimed to connect their assigned projects, alleviate their workload, and save the student valuable time. 


America by Design Showcase

America by Design Showcase


Ultimately, the pathway leads somewhere. After a student has taken one or both the Algebra 1 by Design and Photography by Design (Will be offered next year) as Freshmen and the American History by Design as Juniors, they have the opportunity to take the Entrepreneurship Class in their Senior year. 


The Entrepreneurship class as the endpoint for the BaD pathway often functions more like a Business than a class, earning money to expand the program by taking on real clients throughout the year. Expanding on Schwab's mission to cultivate student's unique gifts and interests, students are interviewed by Schwab at the beginning of the course in the style of an actual job interview to obtain their desired job in the class. 


There are all kinds of jobs for all sorts of interests, like the Happiness Coordinator, which focuses on the well-being of the class; Studio Photographer who runs shoots; Video Editor, Website Manager, Business Relations, Event Coordinator, and many more. With a seemingly simple job like Happiness Coordinator, students can learn how to create a healthy, fun working environment that can be easily applied to a human resources job. 


These class jobs allow students to learn and experience what it is like to be a part of a real business. Some students even overlap their in-class jobs with their businesses. One such student who took what she learned in class as the studio photographer and created her own photography business, Luvya Photo (@luvyaphoto), Paris Chan, remarked, "One reason I started my business is to be more independent and learn how to work in the real world," and with the space granted by the Entrepreneurship class and Schwab's guidance she was able to do just that.


From a fascinating read, "Who Owns the Ice House," written by Pulitzer Prize Winner Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoneiger, the program focuses on 8 Entrepreneurial Mindsets that he likes to refer to as “Entrepreneurial Superpowers.” Choice, opportunity, action, knowledge, brand, wealth, persistence, and community/network; these are the foundational principles that the Entrepreneurial class instills in its burgeoning entrepreneurs. With those, it doesn't matter if their interests are business, social media, or writing; students have and continue to apply the knowledge and skills gained through their experiences with the class in building their personal businesses. Chan, for instance, with Luvya Photo (@luvyaphoto), utilizes BaD's photography studio to do beautiful action shots of athletes. While she primarily photographs dancers, she also does team sports photos, headshots, and modeling photos. 


With their business, Jacob Totah and Dylan Alvarez have taken on car washing and detailing locally with Prime Shine (@primeshinehb). An aspiring director, Casen Dow, is working on a brilliantly written short film they plan to submit to various prestigious film festivals. The entrepreneurial students have only officially started their personal businesses this year as an official class project. The Entrepreneurial students took initiative with what they've learned, and with Schwab's mentorship, they've started these businesses and ventures that are surely only meant to grow in profit and number.


terry vance

Guest Speaker, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Vance and Hines


It is no wonder the BaD pathway has seen rapid growth since its conception. With its commitment to innovation, refusal to settle, and empowerment of students with all kinds of skills and interests, it's truly creating the space for everyone to thrive even beyond its classroom walls. It's creating water for the fish who can't climb trees. 


Schwab, reflecting on his motivation behind building something so new and experimental, said, "It's really something I thought would help a certain segment of our student population that maybe can't find a real direct purpose in school and bring them in, but most selfishly… I wanted to create classes I'd want my own kids to be in." 


It goes without saying that not every student who enters the BaD pathway will pursue an entrepreneurial career. Life is funny like that and there's no guarantee what will happen and how their interests will change; but the skills, the connections, and, most importantly, the self worth that these students have gained from this program is unequivocal in its impact. 


There's a place for everyone. Go check out more about what the BaD pathway is doing, where it's going, and how you can take the reins of your future and education. Join the fantastic things they're accomplishing at