As many of my readers know, my school started an annual Innovation Day where we allowed students free reign of their learning. The first year it became pretty popular and the second year was just as successful. I have enjoyed helping other classes and schools get their own Innovation Days off the ground and love seeing the idea spread. This past week we held our third annual Innovation Day at our school and it was by far and away the most successful one yet for one big reason.
Several months ago, I sent the following tweet out to Reed Timmer, a meteorologist, from Discovery Channel’s show Storm Chasers.
I listened to Reed’s keynote at the ASCD conference in the spring and loved what he had to say. He spoke passionately about his life’s dream of learning about weather and everything that goes with it. I had one student in particular that was highly interested in weather and was a fan of Reed. My initial thought was the have Reed connect with this one kid and that idea snowballed into him addressing all of my students as part of Innovation Day. What better person to speak to our students about following their passions in life and pursuing your interests? My hope was to get Reed to Skype in for a short interview that I could record and show to the entire grade level to kick off our Innovation Day. However, that was not what actually happened.
Instead, the power of social media unleashed itself and within a short amount of time and a few dozen tweets I was in a meeting with personnel from Discovery Education planning an actual site visit and activities with Reed Timmer. Fast-forward to last Friday where Reed drove nine hours through a snowstorm to visit our school and deliver a keynote speech to kick off Innovation Day. He spoke about his passion for chasing storms and learning about the science of weather. Of course he showed some amazing footage of the Dominator driving right into the belly of some intense tornadoes. I could not have picked a more perfect start to the day or a more perfect message to be delivered.
After the keynote, Reed did a small group meet and greet with some extremely passionate young scientists and then roamed and spoke to kids about their projects. One young man made a documentary of the day and here is a small clip of his interview with Reed.
Of the three years that we have been doing the Innovation Days at my school, this was by far the best one yet. We had the gambit of projects that reigned from choreographed ballets and stop motion film making to tension bridges and documentary making. The addition of the guest speaker was fantastic and the kids just were so tuned into their learning. Our deputy superintendent visited our school for the keynote and hung around to watch kids working on their projects. Afterward he emailed me the following comments,
“The whole day was just awesome! I have been an educator for 42 years and have never seen such a high rate of engagement where 300 students were totally into learning as they worked on their projects.”
That pretty much sums it up…just a great day of student learning. Period.