Skip to main content

You are here

Business Insider: The founder of Khan Academy built the ultimate school for kids to work and play together

Monday, October 9, 2017

“Originally founded as an all-ages school in 2014 in Mountain View, California, Khan debuted for the 2017-2018 school year the brand new Khan Lab School for high school students.”

Originally published in Business Insider on October 6, 2017. You can access the original article here.

Independence Level 6 students studying in the Upper School space.

Sal Khan is probably best known for launching Khan Academy, the free online learning platform that covers everything from art to history to computer programming.

But Khan is also leading the charge on another learning revolution: flexible learning spaces.

Originally founded as an all-ages school in 2014 in Mountain View, California, Khan debuted for the 2017-2018 school year the brand new Khan Lab School for high school students. Designed and built by the architecture firm Kurani, the school blends traditional classroom learning with student-led projects.

The approach takes a hard left turn from regular schooling, and it could pave the way for schools of the future. Here's what it's like.

Students talking to Independence Level 5 Lead Advisor, Raina Grove.
Kurani's founder, Danish Kurani, told Business Insider that Khan Lab School is meant to combine experimentation and education in a joint school and laboratory.


"We've added many specialty spaces so faculty can test different courses and experiences," Kurani said. These spaces include large interior windows that let everyone to see the experiments taking place, in addition to breakout rooms, commons, and a cafe to give people fixed meeting spaces.

"And just like a lab where scientists are expected to share the results of their testing," Kurani added, "the school is equipped with displays for student and faculty work."

A student reads in the library nook in the Upper School space.
In the library, for instance, students can duck into nooks for some privacy while they read.


Part of the flexible learning approach means giving kids the chance to be by themselves. Collaboration is important, but if they're surrounded by their peers many students could eventually feel overwhelmed.

"Even with limited space," Kurani said, "there's plenty of distinct micro-environments that offer students a mix of tools and settings to work in."

Students interact in the Upper Level Humanities room.
Students can also convene in spaces meant to encourage socialization and brainstorming. A growing body of research finds this kind of dynamism improves kids' performance.


Recently, a study of 36,000 students found "personalized learning" boosted standardized test scores in math and reading compared to traditional education. Personalized learning involves teachers taking on more of a coaching role, while students guide their instruction, typically with the aid of technology.

Khan Lab School embraces personalized learning in both its design and philosophy. Students are grouped not by age, but by skill level in various domains.

Students study and work in various labs in the Upper School space.
The school has various "Labs" depending on the activity students are engaged in.


There is the Make Lab, where kids can design, build, and prototype; the Ideate Lab, for brainstorming; and the Chat Lab, useful for discussing ideas and working through problems aloud.

Students work on their building and robotics skills in the "Make" Computer Science room in the Upper School space.
Even though Khan Lab School caters to just 100 kids, Kurani said the model could be implemented at a much broader scale.
An overview of the Upper School space.
Just a couple miles away from where the world's biggest tech companies are reinventing consumer products, Khan Lab School could be doing the same for education.

View the original story on Business Insider here.