“my response to the high-pressure environment was making bows” #Curiosity

As I fell deeper into bow making, I began to search far and beyond my neighborhood.

I’ve been studying the TED talk below – “Dong Woo Jang: The art of bow-making.” In a high-pressure, high-stakes testing environment, Dong Woo Jang pursues a personal passion and extended project that helps him construct knowledge, skills, understanding, and wisdom from areas that we would typically separate and subdivide in school, likely with no intentional, threaded connection.

What drive and persistence it takes for a young person to make time for such committed exploration and discovery while living in a system that dominates so much of his day having to study someone else’s interests.

What if school were more purposefully designed for the committed pursuit of our passions and curiosities? So that a story such as Dong Woo Jang’s would be ordinary instead of extraordinary.

 

“If you would like to help us design school…” #MVPSchool #MVIFI

I love my school for so many reasons. Just this morning, I received an email that provided me with yet another reason. The email was sent to the entire Upper School student body, and I was copied. It was an email rich in design thinking. It was an email full of trust that honors the wisdom of the “student.” It was an email full of promise for the depths of design – at the intersection of creativity and functionality.

Design thinking is people-centered problem solving. It is fundamentally concerned with and connected to the users of the things being designed. It is full of empathy and creative, critical thinking applied to real-world issues and challenges.

The most ambitious school leaders are serious about the design of “school.” How could one not be in our current era – to continuously think, design, and act for the best learning experiences for our learners. To give anything less than such critical attention would be unthinkable. Even if one determined to leave school “as is,” it would be superb if such decision making stemmed from thoughtful research and design, rather than status quo or de facto operations.

So, here’s the email. What a glorious invitation. How grateful I am that such is commonplace where I work and learn!

All,

I hope you all had a great weekend.

If you would like to help us design school for the “Experiment” and “Produce” phases of the projects, we need your ideas and help.

I invite you to join me either for lunch Wednesday or for breakfast Friday (on me) to discuss how we might best design the school day to position you for success.

Click here to sign up. [active link in original email]

There are only 50 available slots this week, and there will [be] more opportunities in the near future.

Enjoy your day,

Tyler S. Thigpen

@tylerthigpen

Head of Upper School

Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

I’m curious: what role did school play for @JackAndraka

Jack Andraka discovered an early-detection method for pancreatic cancer. From all I can tell, he worked with great determination and persistence over a number of months. From the passion and project, he grew context and content mastery.

He was 15 years old. A ninth grader.

I just watched his TED talk (a #MustWatch), and I am inspired by his scientific and human contribution to the medical and health communities. To our world.

Of course, I am also deeply curious how much he was able to “work on this” in school. In the TED talk, there is mention of his biology class, and it’s a very interesting reference. Images in the talk show Internet searches at home and lab work at Johns Hopkins. Two of my hundreds of questions – did he earn credit at school for this work? What role did any teachers and admin play?

So, I’ve tweeted him, and I hope I’ll get a response.

I fully believe that we can redesign school – systemically – to enable more of the “Jack Andrakas” to surface and succeed. That would mean more success for all of us.

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Related: Brittany Wenger

Empathy and Empowerment – critical “Es” of 21C learning and educational innovation

From Chris Thinnes (@CurtisCFEE) at Curtis School and the Center for the Future of Elementary Education:

We find it ironic – and we think the students do, as well – that for all the focus “the education system” receives in the national media, input from students is rarely ever sought. We wanted not merely to give ‘permission’ to students to talk about their shared experience, but to invite them openly to offer their input of how best to improve our schools and our system.

In two blog posts (here and here), Thinnes shares an incredible, transformative experience made possible through a partnership between sixth graders at Curtis School and Cortez Middle School. In the sharing, Thinnes offers a fabulous model and case study for inviting collaborative voice and awareness and action from students – to help empower them to be deeply involved in ways that education and schooling can innovate and reach higher trajectories.

When we see student learners as the core solutions seekers to issues – especially those in which they are primarily immersed – we not only stand better chances at successful transformation, but we also facilitate active citizenship that will likely prove essential to the continued enhancement of our national democracy and global opportunities.

Bravo sixth graders and faculty facilitators at Curtis School and Cortez Middle School!

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Also related: “School Innovation Teams – Start with Outrospection #WhatIfWeekly #StudentVoice”

“A Radically Practical Vision of Education” via @EdSurge @patwater #MustRead

A #MustRead of #MustReads in my humble opinion…

In a world that’s changing so rapidly, why wouldn’t you build our education system around what we don’t know rather than around what we do?

Patrick Atwater in EdSurge 4.2.2013

“What inquiry-based education could look like in the year 2025–and how we get there.”

https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-04-02-a-radically-practical-vision-of-education

I think we could get there much more nimbly and quickly than 2025. It would require those who are serious about purposefully using design to work the problem to achieve these new models…in existing schools, not just new start ups. It would require the courage to lead before we reach a place of more crisis-management change motivation. It would require those who want this vision for kids and learners right now.