Jump-start the new school year with a spark of innovation!
By Paula Gangopadhyay, Chief Learning Officer
Welcome to another fabulous school year! In your dedicated pursuit for continuous professional growth, many of you will have attended summer professional development workshops, taken learning trips, explored new technology tools and collected something educational that you plan to use in your classrooms this year.
The need to inspire 21st-century and STEM skills in all learners will continue to be in the forefront this school year – and beyond. As we all work toward getting the Common Core State Standards widely adopted and the Next Generation of Science Standards formalized, I hope you agree with me that the core traits that will define student success in the United States will continue to rest on the foundations of creativity, innovation and the ability to think critically and solve problems.
Passionate educators like you and The Henry Ford are life –long learners aspiring to see positive student growth and in this pursuit we are always looking for tips, tools, resources, strategies and, most importantly, models tested and endorsed by fellow practitioners. Well… I thought as a welcome gesture this school year I want to share some preliminary findings from a recent field test study we at The Henry Ford undertook last school year and that I hope will empower you as well.
We believe that innovation can be taught with the help of inspirational stories of innovators past and present. Last school year we conceptualized an educational R&D pilot project called Innovation Education Incubator (IEI). With funding in part from Meritor Inc. and explore.org, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, we invited a pool of K-12 teachers to try out some of our innovative curricula, namely Innovation 101, Reading Inspiration, Educator Digikit and ExhibitBuilder.
We wanted to see if our unique content and innovative methodologies were able to ignite a “can-do attitude and innovative mind-set” in students. Twenty-six teachers from Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California and New York joined us on the IEI project as the first adopters of our educational innovation material. In addition, more than 13 independent teachers also participated in the testing and evaluation of the curricula.
These teachers represented various types of schools: rural, urban, suburban, parochial, public, charter and private. They taught various subjects including education technology, social studies, U.S. history, science, career and technical education, English language arts, English as a second language, special education and even physical education. They taught grades from kindergarten through high school. Innovation 101 and Reading Inspiration curricula were the materials most popularly adopted because they were easily adaptable to teachers’ and students’ needs and directly focused on teachable lessons of innovation.
The third-party evaluation findings, among many other positive indicators, clearly demonstrated that the “student engagement” element, the precursor of knowledge acquisition, was extremely high during the field test of IEI curricula. “The level of interaction from the students was amazing and unexpected” said one participating teacher. Another teacher shared with me the story of one of her fourth-grade students whose reading level went up from level 16 to 38 during the implementation as he became motivated to read more and more. Yet another teacher said that she was in tears on the last day of school when one of the autistic students in her class who had never spoken during the entire school year, took pride and spoke for the first time during his class presentation related to innovation. She said her entire class stood up and clapped for the student. What amazing stories of positive student growth!
Our first batch of IEI participating teachers now plans to continue using these curricula and resources in their classrooms every year. They are also motivated to share these resources with their colleagues at their building and district levels. A majority of the teachers have decided to jump-start the school year with Innovation 101 or Reading Inspiration because they believe that these are great contextual tools to frame the school year and spark an innovative mindset in their students. Some have decided to take it further and carry the theme of innovation throughout the school year with our project-based learning recommendations.
Are you an innovative teacher who is looking for a cool, easy-to use digital resource to spark an innovative mindset among your students? You can start the school year by sharing this inspirational video http://www.oninnovation.com/about/about-oninnovation.aspx with your students and engaging them in a dialogue. Ask them what they want to accomplish this school year or in their lives and how they think they will reach their goals. The free online curricula of Innovation 101, complete with downloadable worksheets and various other current-day innovator interview clips, are waiting for you.
Stay tuned as we share more stories and pedagogical tips from the participating IEI teachers. If you want to join The Henry Ford’s Innovation Education Incubator, I am just an email or phone call away. Let’s ignite the spark in the minds of the future innovators who are in your classroom today. We can do it!
Chief Learning Officer
The Henry Ford
20900 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, MI, 48124
Read more articles written by Paula Gangopadhyay on History Education and Museums
Paula contributes a monthly column to History Matters, the newsletter of the National Council for History Education
The Chronicle, Historical Society of Michigan