We’re looking for partners to help us invent the future of learning. This year, we’re accepting applications for a paid, Fall gap-year program for young adults. Fellows will develop their own projects as part of a new community-driven publication from Powderhouse and contribute their perspectives to our design of a high school replacement.

Kindling Fellowship, Fall 2023

Applications for the 2023 Kindling Fellowship are currently closed. You are welcome to submit an application, but you will be placed on a waiting list and we will reach out if a spot opens up.

Do creative projects you care about to a professional level of finish; publish your work for a real audience; develop a personal portfolio; get support for your transition to college or career; help us prototype a replacement for high school.
Over the course of an academic year, develop your own projects and transform those into pieces for publication through in a collaborative process including workshops exploring computation, narrative, and design.
How Much?
You’ll be paid ~$30,000, with retirement, healthcare, dental, and vision benefits
You, the Powderhouse team, and around a dozen young adult fellows
1 September 2023–31 May 2024, 10AM–5PM each weekday (excluding state and federal holidays)
Davis Square, Somerville, MA

About Kindling

Kindling fellowships offer a sandbox to release creative projects with youth and others in our community. Alongside fellows, we choose themes, prototype projects, and develop pieces for these publications, seeking to push one another creatively, intellectually, and technically while providing support through hands-on workshops and mentorship.

We hope you'll join us to release publications that will not only offer a platform to share ideas, stories, and creative work, but demonstrate what’s possible when youth get a say.

Thematically, our publications center three ideas with lifelong relevance:

  • Identity ⇒ Though the question "Who am I?" never stays answered for long, it is only by telling and reflecting on our stories and those of our communities that we can begin to make sense of our roots.
  • Interdependence ⇒ Figuring out what matters and what to do about it requires engaging our connections to one another and the world around us. The bonds between individuals, communities, systems, and environments are increasingly essential (and opaque), making understanding and stewardship more urgent than ever.
  • The Future ⇒ The windshield is the biggest window in a car for a reason: We're often most interested in where we're going next. Living our values requires consciously envisioning, interrogating, and developing our individual and collective paths forward.

Editorially, we aim to create projects and pieces that see things:

  • From below ⇒ Most narratives are told from above, from the point of view of leaders and systems and theories, grand narratives which don't often reflect the experiences of people on the ground, especially the marginalized. We try to invert this.
  • From outsider points-of-view ⇒ The stories which get the most airtime are by definition mainstream. We are interested in seeing things in new ways, and so are constantly looking for unusual angles, structures, stories, and voices.
  • From many points-of-view ⇒ Understanding something requires looking at it from more than one perspective. Whether from the perspectives of different people or disciplines or traditions, we try to see things from more than one point of view.
  • From firsthand experience ⇒ We are not here to tell other people’s stories or to summarize their ideas. We try to create media which centers primary sources, original data, and people's direct experience.
  • With an eye for structure ⇒ Most stories have invisible characters. These structural factors (e.g. technologies, legal arrangements, and system dynamics) play a huge role in how our world works. We try to include these characters in our stories.
  • Through action ⇒ "Media" often brings to mind passive consumption, i.e. the doom scroll. We try to create media through active investigation, and to create media which invites active participation.
  • From the past ⇒ Modern challenges often seem novel because we don't have much of a memory. But every issue has a history. We try to bring an appreciation for old ideas (and for the intellectual history underlying issues) to our current moment.
  • For the future ⇒ Ultimately, it’s what will happen which matters. Without visions of the future we won’t know where to go, and without predictions we won’t be sure how to interpret our current moment. How will the present unfold? How should it unfold? How do we get there?

Why are we doing this?

Today, youth are excluded from the most important conversations of their lives because we place them in School, a place whose day-to-day is largely removed from issues which matter (to either youth or the world). This disenfranchises youth by denying them both the chance to learn through real work and the opportunity for meaningful involvement in public discourse and civic life.

We do this under the rubric of “developing productive members of society” and “creating good citizens”, claiming that preparing people for effective participation in society requires isolating them from it for more than a decade.

At Powderhouse, we believe this is not only wrong, it doesn’t work.

Alexander Hamilton was barely nineteen when he started his political career. Malala Yousafzai was just seventeen when she won the Nobel Peace Prize. Louis Braille was only fifteen when he invented the Braille alphabet. However unusual or extraordinary you believe these people were, their greatness did not come after a long period of preparation, but grew out of constant and engaged action and reflection doing real work.

We believe young people can do far more than our culture gives them credit for. But realizing this potential requires acknowledging that people grow best when they’re learning, learn best when they’re creating, and create best when they’re creating something which matters to them—and sharing it with a real audience.

The research and design challenge for those who care about youth is clear: We need to advance the art and science of meshing the abstract knowledge and skills today’s society requires with the concrete culture and concerns of youth. To many people, this problem will appear impossible because they believe abstract knowledge and skills are dreary and the culture and concerns of youth fun.

More than a decade prototyping radically different approaches to learning have convinced us this is a mistake borne of most people’s experiences in School, a place where disciplines are atomized into lonely, impersonal subjects, trivia far-removed from everyday life.

After trying to tackle this from the inside, we are setting out ourselves to build an equitable educational institution free to the public which embodies this vision of learning