School of Innovation
I had the pleasure and opportunity to take four of our teachers to visit a school east of Cleveland last week. The purpose of our visit was to learn how this school was incorporating S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities into student learning on a continuous basis. We were blown away with this school's model and vision of present and future learning. This school is apart of a large suburban school of Cleveland called Willoughby-Eastlake. Currently, they house grades 3-7 and they have plans to add a grade level each of the next few years to build up to offering high school courses. Their model is unique and different by design, as this school was started in 2015 with a purpose of providing hands-on, problem-based, collaborative and critical thinking lessons, not every once in a while, but integrated into their modes of daily learning. Some pictures below remind me of the "shops" that were in many high schools up until about the last decade where students were measuring, cutting, welding all sorts of items. In the modern area, students are using 3-D printers, robotics, poster makers, computer programming and animated design, etc. This school had many collaborative spaces where students could work in small groups of 3 or 4 or a lead teacher could instruct 60-70 students at a time.
This engaging atmosphere allows much student empowerment, where students are constructing their own learning with the teachers being the facilitators more often than not. Students are charged with challenges to solve real-world problems and the "growth" mindset is the norm (see fourth picture below) and not a "fixed" mindset. This allows students to attempt new ideas, without fearing failure and actually encouraging it. For instance, they are starting a partnership with a local environmental group to study how the creek next to their school can be modified to reduce the continuous risk of flooding without altering the ecosystem in the area. Their live "learning" lab approach allows students to be heavily active in the process from problem-solving to solving the problems.
In addition, they have numerous guest speakers in throughout the year to expose the students to possible careers and for other motivational purposes. This has allowed the school to receive grants and partner with local businesses to benefit student learning either through materials, equipment or funding. It is our hope that we can plan to incorporate some of these concepts more regularly into how we engage students in learning and they can gain more ownership in their own learning paths. We know this will take some time to develop lessons, plan and seek resources to push our students to be innovative, problem solvers and critical thinkers. However, we were inspired and encouraged by what we learned and observed. We now hope to continue to communicate with schools like this school so we can learn how we can better prepare students for the future. If you would like to know more about this school, you can visit:
Written by: Dr. Nick Neiderhouse (Wayne Trail Elementary Principal)