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How Wayfinder Began

Wayfinder was born at the world-famous K12 Innovation Lab at the Stanford University d.school

Wayfinder was born at the Stanford Institute of Design after asking one key design question: how can we reimagine adolescent education to develop a student’s sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging? Rather than recycle old solutions to curb student depression and anxiety, Wayfinder is addressing the youth mental health crises in a new innovative model.

According to the Director of the Stanford Adolescence Center + Wayfinder Advisory Member, a growing body of research shows that young adults are stressed not just because they have too much to do, but also because they don’t know why they’re doing it. That’s why Wayfinder’s goal is to support students to live meaningful lives. At the core, we help young people find purpose, a powerful antidote to the mental health epidemic plaguing our students.

teacher writing ideas on a whiteboard

For too many decades our students have suffered — school does not answer the calls of the 21st century. Instead, schooling is locked in an ineffectual, centuries-old model. Our students and teachers deserve better. To answer this call, Wayfinder has designed the world’s preeminent SEL and human development tools for educational settings from middle school to college and beyond.

“The biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress; it’s meaninglessness.”
Bill Damon Headshot
Dr. Bill Damon
Stanford Center on Adolescence
Are your students equipped to answer the big life questions?

Most of today’s teens are not. Only about 1 in 5 young people report feeling connected to a deeper "why." Instead, adolescents are sleepwalking through their school experience feeling predominantly “tired,” “stressed,” and “bored.”

Adolescent students who have purpose, meaning, and belonging are happier, healthier, more engaged, and less stressed than their peers who lack it. Without connection to their intrinsic motivation, or an inner “purpose compass,” today’s youth will keep mindlessly racing to check boxes of external achievement that lack personal meaning and suffer at epidemic rates as a consequence.

Drawing from purpose development research, neuroscience, interviews with dozens of purpose exemplars, and the practices of human wayfinding traditions, Wayfinder has built a community that urgently seeks to make meaning and purpose development a central focus of education. Wayfinder’s signature teacher trainings and student toolkits are our contributions to a collective effort to ensure that young people enjoy meaningful educational experiences the world over.

Electronic tablet showing the Activity Library page of the Wayfinder App.
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