“Welcome to the first-ever SPARKplaces gathering.
From the very beginning of daydreaming this event, we were certain about a few things. We wanted:
- an intimate experience that invested in authentic human relationships;
- to gather creatives and visionaries that love discovering new ideas;
- all participants to be uniquely hand-selected year one;
- a fully immersive expedition, not a pick-n-choose conference;
- to explore the design of learning environments but make sure we were focused on ‘learning’ first, ‘environments’ second;
- to trust in everyone’s expertise and experience coming in the door, but more importantly we wanted to see what happens when people let go of their own biases;
- to be inspired by the spirit of ‘design thinking’ without over worrying details;
- to ‘wander’ and ‘wonder’ without apology;
- to ‘do’ and ‘create’ something that gained momentum after the event ends;
- to see if a tribe could emerge that seeks to keep exploring together over time.”
Such is how the SPARKplaces notebook began with a welcome to the participants. In this two-day design expedition, we gathered in the stunning Convent and Stuart Hall School, situated in the Flood Mansion, and we engaged in a collection of provocations and challenges that yielded compelling design possibilities and inspiring manifestos. For me, one of the most exciting findings took the form of the fast-cycle in which all of this concentrated effort occurred. The window of work, not much more than ten hours when all was said and done, created a set of artifacts and launching pads derived from committed teams of people — work that could be replicated, in process, with the people who make up a single-school community, as well as a tribe of people from various schools.
Rapid-fire speakers sharing profound talks in five minutes, dinner table prompts hybridizing a Jeffersonian Dinner format, epic questions, learning metaphors, and a learning ecology build palpable momentum, “completed” by a manifesto drafted by each team and percolated to richness because of all of the meaningful pump-priming that preceded the quick-write of shared understanding and conviction.
Paradoxically, the work felt “finished” and unfinished simultaneously. Wonderfully, it excited me to continue the efforts and forward the next steps…whatever they may be.
Many heartfelt thanks to Christian Long (Wonder, by Design), Carla Silver (Leadership + Design), Howard Levin (Convent and Stuart Hall), and to the fellow participants who poured themselves into this collaboration. I felt honored to be in your learning community.