Through partnerships with schools that follow the Big Picture Model of learning (which includes internship experiences within the local community), afterschool programs and summer programs, we have developed what we call the “Student-Led Internship”. The design of this program, involving high school aged students, is developmentally appropriate, cognitively challenging and a more unstructured environment through which collaboration, creativity, entrepreneurial thinking, design thinking and constructivist learning emerge. In this environment intellectual risk-taking is not only encouraged, it is a necessary component for success. What is not necessary is having a project that works “right” or even looks like the idea that the students walked in the door with. The learning is in the process, not the product.
This paper explores the fundamental ideas behind the Student-Led Internship, the research that demonstrates the importance of programs like these and the role creative and intellectual risk plays in a more unstructured learning model. Specifically in this paper, we will focus on the role of interest and motivation, process and elements for success.