Monday, February 24, 2014

Innovation Day 4

It is that time of year again. The time where we set aside a day and allow students complete control over their learning at our annual Innovation Day. Year one, two and three were great but this year might have been one of our most successful ones yet. As with Rocky, the 4th installment is the best. For those that are not familiar with Innovation Day, feel free to click the links above to see how it has evolved in our school and with our students.

This year we took a different focus and shifted from learning for the sake of learning and put more emphasis on creation. Our goal for the students was to make or create something. To get them fired up we showed them two videos. The first was Caine’s Arcade, which by now is a legitimate viral video that has been seen by millions. The other video was created by a friend of mine and focused on a school in his district where they held an Invention Convention. Both served as a great jumping off point for our students to get them thinking creatively about creating something.

As in previous years the learning throughout the day was great with students all over the learning map. I am always amazed at how certain students will surprise me with what they come up with. One of my favorites was the young man who created a working telegram. Throughout the day he was beyond frustrated with the progress and how he could not seem to get the contraption to work. Finally, late in the afternoon he “got it” and you could see the pride on his face over his accomplishment.


Another new element to this year’s day was we tied it with our grade level Open House. In year’s past that night was a dog and pony show where elaborate projects were created in an effort to convince parents we actually do stuff at school. Apparently the lack of a trifold board and glitter is an indication of the downfall of public education. The parents loved the projects and seeing what kids had worked on during the day. It was also great for the students to have that audience of the community and family members during the night. Many students showed up early and stayed late to show off their work.


Like I do every year after Innovation Day, I reflect on the process and how I can infuse more autonomy and choice into my every day work with students. It clearly motivates and empowers students and is a powerful approach to learning.

Here are some other projects that caught my eye during the day:
Student painting

Engineered vehicle

Garbage truck with functioning "crusher"

Functional pinball machine

Model of the ice at the United Center

Stop-Motion film

Minecraft model of our school