Nagao did have an idea that the COA approach of hands-on, interdisciplinary learning could be useful for Japanese students facing a complex future.

Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011, Friedlander said, “people went back and said, part of the reason we’re having this disaster is because of our educational system. When it happened, people didn’t know how to communicate across disciplines. The response was hampered because things were so siloed.”

In searching for education reform ideas, Nagao found Ashoka, an international group promoting social entrepreneurship and innovation. She met Friedlander and Collins at a gathering of “Ashoka U Change Maker Campuses” and came away inspired by COA.

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