PROJECT 42 – Helping tweens discover the power of the question

Published on core77 June 30, 2014


Schools kill creativity. This simple message was the point of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, now the most viewed of all time. Robinson challenges the way we view education in todays society, and highlights the fact that it hasn’t developed in the speed that it needs to, but is stuck in the old way of thinking.

The talk was released in 2006. And while much has changed since then (how many of you are now reading this on a smartphone or a tablet?), our schools have remained dully familiar. In the UK, things have arguably got worse, with unpopular figure Michael Gove damning progressive education as a ‘misplaced ideology’ and swinging the curriculum back towards good old traditional methods.


Four students at Royal College of Art in London have decided to do address this issue by developing a summer program where kids can enjoy thinking and learning in different ways. Project 42 is expressly intended for creative learners (ages 9–12) who really don’t fit into the framework of today’s educational institutions. The program will take place between July 28 and August 8 at the Royal College of Art. WhyProject 42? Well, according to the one the founders, Ed Tam:

The name is inspired by the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, a supercomputer was tasked to find the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. Millennia had passed and the computer came back with the answer 42. But the people soon realized that it’s going to take a much bigger, more complex computer to arrive at the question. Project 42 was set up to help young people discover the power of the question.


The aim of the weeklong course is to bring out the fearless learner within each child by encouraging them to explore a question that interests them, and by starting with their strengths and working outwards. The theme for this year’s camp is London 2050, and under four themes—fashion, food, habitat and transport—children will be able to explore potential futures for the city through drawing, cooking, sewing, animating, storytelling, making and even coding.

The entire process will be available open-source: Project 42 will be documenting and sharing all of their experiences, methods and outcomes for others to adapt and use.

True to the principles of empathic design, the project has been developed organically, in collaboration with kids, parents, teachers and current experts in the field. Besides Sir Ken Robinson’s powerful talk, the project also bears the legacy of influential educational thinkers such as John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky. Other sources of inspiration include the Independent ProjectSugata Mitra and Logan LaPlante’s talk on Hackschooling.


I will be following the project and the team from London, which means that you’ll be able to read about the project as it unfolds. You can follow it here on Core77 and on Project 42’s own blog.