For over a decade, we’ve partnered with educators from across the country to pilot our curriculum resources, professional development opportunities, and experiential learning programs centered around the concept of innovation. Through these close collaborations with expert practitioners and students, we’ve observed a universal ability to innovate—but we’ve also observed some challenges.
Research being conducted by Raj Chetty from Harvard’s Opportunity Insights project has highlighted these challenges and found that, “There are great differences in innovation rates based on income, race, and gender. Those differences don’t seem to be due to innate ability to innovate.” How can we even begin to combat this innovation opportunity gap?
One simple way is to expose learners to innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs—early and often. Therefore, The Henry Ford has adopted an Innovation Learning strategy, an interdisciplinary approach designed to accelerate an innovative mindset in all learners. The approach is powered by the perspective of our collections, which feature 26 million primary and secondary source artifacts that act as coaches and mentors by providing insight into 300 years of American innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.
A scientist who helped poor rural Southern African American farmers nurture depleted soil with nutritious crops that could also be sold for profit – George Washington Carver.
A soft-spoken African American seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white man, an event that many believe sparked the Civil Rights movement – Rosa Parks.
A husband and wife duo considered by many as two of the world’s most prolific problem solvers and among the most important American designers of the 20th century – Charles and Ray Eames.
The writer of the first dictionary of the American English language – Noah Webster.
The iconic, quintessential inventor with 1,093 patents to his name – Thomas Edison.
An American industrialist with an entrepreneurial spirit who failed twice to establish an automobile company only to succeed on the third try – Henry Ford.
We connect these stories to core disciplines like STEM, Social Studies, Art & Design, English Language Arts, and combine them with emerging disciplines like Invention and Entrepreneurship.
To make these interdisciplinary connections, we’ve developed a unique Innovation Learning Framework called Model i. Model i is a common language to talk across all disciplines. It is made up of two frames: (1) Habits of an Innovator and (2) Actions of Innovation, which can be used together to describe the innovation journeys within our collection, and activate learners of today through their own innovation journeys.
This results in all learners seeing themselves as innovators, ready to tackle current or future challenges to help shape a better future.
Here’s some of the feedback from our pilot educators:
“The result of implementing and promoting Model i’s Habits and Actions has been amazing. Students have learned how to research topics, how to challenge a system, how to design then re-design, and most importantly how to fail in a safe environment to take a risk.” –Hollie Gumm, 2020 The Henry Ford Teacher Innovator Award Winner
“The power of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Learning approach is that it transcends age, gender, socio-economic status, and academic level. I was able to present their curriculum to a group of fourth grade students comprised of many numbers. 100% free and reduced lunch, 75% English Language Leaners, 25% Special Education, and 10% homeless. With this being said, every single one of the students understood and connected with the content. They loved seeing real-world examples of how innovation has progressed over time. I think more often than not, these students had considered the idea of invention as something that is only done by ‘geniuses.' After working through the curriculum every one of my students began to see themselves as innovators, creators, and inspired individuals.” –Rachel Lamb, 2020 Colorado State Teacher of the Year Finalist
If you’re looking to connect with a community of innovative educators like Hollie and Rachel, filled with Innovation Learning resources, then you’re in luck. Launching in 2021, The Henry Ford’s inHub is a community built by educators for educators to empower learners to activate their innovative mindset to help build a better future. Visit inHub.thehenryford.org to learn more!
Phil Grumm is Senior Manager, Learning Services and On-site Programs, at The Henry Ford.
"It is innovative thinking such as this which dares to dream that we could travel to space, to the moon and eventually to Mars," said Joan Higginbotham, a former astronaut and director of human exploration primes at Raytheon Technologies. She was awarding this year's Most Innovative Award. The winner? Anirudh Cowlagi, inventor of AstroTrack, a Python-based solution to aid with the detection and characterization of minor planets in the solar system.
"Advances in the field of planetary science have been dramatic over the last few decades," Anirudh explained. "However, with this new data comes a need for more effective methods of analysis." Anirudh received a $2,500 scholarship, plus a hand-selected mentor from Raytheon Technologies to aid him in his innovation journey.
The Henry Ford's Invention Convention gives more than enough reason for hope during these challenging times. This year, over 120,000 K-12 students designed and pitched their creative solutions to the problems of the world, from potato-based plastic bags and energy-generating keyboards to more breathable face masks. These students were tasked with a single request: find a problem theycare about and try to solve it.
With lockdowns and travel restrictions inhibiting many educational programs, The Henry Ford digitized Invention Convention within weeks. This quick pivot allowed The Henry Ford’s 20 affiliates to operate their programs and events despite the difficult circumstances. Among these affiliates was the Michigan Invention Convention, which had its most participants ever despite being held virtually. The Henry Ford similarly digitized its U.S. Nationals event, which culminated in an online award ceremony hosted by CBS science correspondent Alie Ward.
The award ceremony featured a number of keynote speakers and presenters, including several former astronauts, the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, key executives including the CEO of Stanley Black & Decker and more than 80 award-winning young inventors. Nearly a dozen full patent applications were awarded to students.
The impact of the U.S. Nationals event has been astounding. As of mid-August, the award ceremony video had received over 40,000 views across its channels, with viewership of Invention Convention via news media with 500 million impressions this year. Most importantly, The Henry Ford continues to improve the accessibility and inclusion of the program. This year, over 54% of the inventors were female, and 55% of the winners self-identified as students of color.
The Henry Ford is grateful to its many partners and sponsors who continue to support and help build this vital program of innovation, invention and creative thinking — in particular, Raytheon Technologies, a founding sponsor of Invention Convention Worldwide and the presenting sponsor of U.S. Nationals 2020. Learn more about The Henry Ford's Invention Convention program at inventionconvention.org.
If you are interested in supporting this inspiring program or participating as a judge in 2021, keep an eye on The Henry Ford’s Invention Convention web page for updates in Spring of 2021.
THF213753 / George Washington Carver at Dedication of George Washington Carver Cabin, Greenfield Village, 1942.
On this day in 1946, George Washington Carver Recognition Day was designated by a joint act of the U.S. Congress and proclaimed by President Harry S. Truman. Carver died just three years earlier on this day in 1943.
Immediately, public officials and the news media began to celebrate his life and create lasting reminders of his work in education, agricultural science, and art. Carver, mindful of his own legacy, had already established the Carver Foundation during the 15th annual Negro History Week, on February 14, 1940, to carry on his research at Tuskegee. It seems fitting to pay respects to Carver on his death day by taking a closer look at the floral beautis that Carver so loved, and that we see around us, even during winter.
Carver recalled that, “day after day I spent in the woods alone in order to collect my floral beautis” [Kremer, ed., pg. 20]. He believed that studying nature encouraged investigation and stimulated originality. Experimentation with plants “rounded out” originality, freedom of thought and action. THF213747 / George Washington Carver Holding Queen Anne's Lace Flowers, Greenfield Village, 1942.
Carver wanted children to learn how to study nature at an early age. He explained that it is “entertaining and instructive, and is the only true method that leads up to a clear understanding of the great natural principles which surround every branch of business in which we may engage” (Progressive Nature Studies, 1897, pg. 4). He encouraged teachers to provide each student a slip of plain white or manila paper so they could make sketches. Neatness mattered. As Carver explained, the grading scale “only applies to neatness, as some will naturally draw better than others.”
Neatness equated to accuracy, and with accuracy came knowledge. Farm families could vary their diet by identifying additional plants they could eat, and identify challenges that plants faced so they could correct them and grow more for market.
Carver understood how the landscape changed between the seasons, and exploring during winter was just as important as exploring during summer. Thus, it is appropriate to apply Carver’s directions about observing nature to the winter landscape around us, and to draw the winter botanicals that we see, based on directions excerpted from Carver’s Progressive Nature Studies (1897). (Items in parentheses added to prompt winter-time nature study - DAR and DE, 3 Jan 2018.)
Leaves – Are they all alike? What plants retain their leaves in winter? Draw as many different shaped leaves as you can.
Stems – Are stems all round? Draw the shapes of as many different stems as you can find. Of what use are stems? Do any have commercial value?
Flowers (greenhouses/florists) – Of what value to the plant are the flowers?
Trees – Note the different shapes of several different trees. How do they differ? (Branching? Bark?) Which trees do you consider have the greatest value?
Shrubs – What is the difference between a shrub and a tree?
Fruit (winter berries) – What is fruit? Are they all of value?
Carver worked in greenhouses and encouraged others to use greenhouses and hot beds to start vegetables earlier in the planting system. The sooner farm families had fresh vegetables, the more quickly they could reduce the amount they had to purchase from grocery stores, and the healthier the farm families would be.
THF213726 / George Washington Carver in a Greenhouse, 1939.
In 1910, Carver included directions for work with nature studies and children’s gardens over twelve months. Selections from “January” suitable for nearly all southern states” included:
Begin in this month for spring gardening by breaking the ground very deeply and thoroughly
Clear off and destroy trash (plant debris) that might be a hiding place for noxious insects.
Cabbages can be put in hot beds, cold frames, or well-protected places.
Grape vines, fruit trees, hedges and ornamental trees should receive attention (pruning, fertilizing)
Both root and top grafting of trees should be done.
THF213314 / Pamphlet, "Nature Study and Children's Gardens," by George Washington Carver, circa 1910.
Carver illustrated his own publications, basing his botanical drawings on what he observed in his field work. He conveyed details that his readers needed to know, be they school children tending their gardens, or farm families trying to raise better crops.
THF213278 / Pamphlet, "Some Possibilities of the Cow Pea in Macon County, Alabama," by George Washington Carver, 1910 / page 12.
Edible wild botanicals, also known as weeds, appeared in late winter. Carver encouraged everyone from his students at Tuskegee to Henry Ford to consumer more wild greens year round, but especially in late winter when greens became a welcome respite from root crops and preserved meats which dominated winter fare. His pamphlet, Nature’s Garden for Victory and Peace, prepared during World War II, featured numerous drawings of edible wild botanicals, also called weeds. Americans could contribute to the war effort by diversifying their diets with these greens that sprouted in the woods during the late winter and early spring. Carver illustrated each wild green, including dandelion, wild lettuce, curled dock, lamb’s quarter, and pokeweed. Following the protocol used in botanical drawing, he credited the source, as he did with several illustrations identified as “after C.M. King.” This referenced the work of Charlotte M. King, who taught botanical drawing at Iowa State University during the time of Carver’s residency there, and who likely influenced Carver’s approach to botanical drawing. King’s original of the “Small Pepper Grass” drawing appeared in The Weed Flora of Iowa (1913), written by Carver’s mentor, botanist Louis Hermann Pammel.
THF213586 / Pamphlet, "Nature's Garden for Victory and Peace," by George Washington Carver, March 1942. To learn more about Carver, consult these biographies:
Hersey, Mark D. My Work is that of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.
Kremer, Gary R. George Washington Carver: A Biography. Santa Barbara, Cal.: Greenwood, 2011.
Kremer, Gary R. ed. George Washington Carver in His Own Words. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987.
McMurry, Linda O. George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
To read more about Carver and Nature Study, see:
Carver, G. W. Progressive Nature Studies. (Tuskegee Institute Print, 1897), Digital copy available at Biodiversity Heritage Library, https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/98621#page/132/mode/1up
Harbster, Jennifer. “George Washington Carver and Nature Study,” blog, March 2, 2015, https://blogs.loc.gov/inside_adams/2015/03/george-washington-carver-and-nature-study/
Debra A. Reid is Curator of Agriculture and the Environment at The Henry Ford. Deborah Evans is Master Presenter at The Henry Ford.
The civil unrest in Detroit, along with violent uprisings in other cities across America during the “long hot summer” of 1967, demonstrated that urban African Americans were angry and frustrated by the lack of progress that had been made in achieving basic rights and equality. Despite the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such issues as substandard housing, unemployment, low-quality education, lack of access to medical facilities, police brutality, mistreatment by white merchants, shortage of city services, and white indifference to these problems were all cited as root causes of these uprisings. A combination of hopelessness and rage led many African Americans to believe that the only way to effect change was to take things into their own hands “by any means necessary.” This new sense of empowerment formed the basis of what came to be called the Black Power movement.
What history tends to remember about the Black Power movement is its more militant aspects—the symbol of the raised fist, the militaristic berets and leather jackets of the Black Panthers, the protesting athletes at the 1968 Olympics. But Black Power was actually an extensive, multi-faceted array of smaller movements and grass-roots attempts to improve quality of life, raise consciousness, and change mindsets.
Educators, specifically, felt that the key to effecting change within African American communities was through the re-education of its youth—a reshaping of curriculum that would have a long-term impact on reducing racism, instilling pride, and encouraging the kind of self-confidence and self-respect that would equip young African Americans to make a difference in society in ways in which their parents and grandparents could only dream.
The Henry Ford has in its collection the papers and personal library of one such educator. James Buntin, born in 1921, came to Ann Arbor in 1969, as a middle school social studies and civics teacher, and soon also became the Director of Personnel Administration at the Ann Arbor Public Schools, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Education, and an Adjunct Professor at Wayne State University teaching in the College Program at Jackson Prison. Throughout his teaching career, Dr. Buntin was an active proponent of desegregation, a prominent advocate of a multi-ethnic curriculum, and a staunch defender of the need to hire more African Americans in the Ann Arbor school system.
The personal library that he accumulated not only reflects his own passions as an African American educator but also provides a unique window into the issues, topics, and debates of the Black Power era during the late 1960s and early 1970s—issues that still deeply resonate today. The following is an annotated selection of books from Dr. Buntin’s library, revealing insights into an era that is often overshadowed by the wider attention paid to the earlier Civil Rights movement.
Manchild in the Promised Land book cover, 1965/reprinted 1967 THF266618
The late 1960s brought a new appreciation for black memoirs and autobiographies, some of which were newly published, others—like this book—were reissued as out-of-print classics. These works offered a gritty, sometimes shocking, realism that did not make concessions to white readers or convey stereotypical African American roles.
Originally published in 1965, this autobiographical narrative recounts Claude Brown’s coming-of-age in 1940s-1950s Harlem, against the starkness of poverty and an astonishing culture of violence. Brown recounts the hopes, dreams, and struggles of the first generation of Northern urban African Americans to establish their place in the “promised land” of both New York City and America itself.
This collection of accounts of nearly 200 primary- and secondary-school children provides a rare child’s-eye-view into ghetto life. The children were asked to “think about themselves, their painfully limiting surroundings, and the broader world which they often know of only by hearsay.” The intent of the editor, a New York City educator, was to diminish the stigma of the words “ghetto” and “slums” among the broader public.
The writings in this book reveal that, when given the chance and encouragement to write, these children had a tremendous amount to say. Their writings were, indeed, often at odds with wider perceptions of disillusionment and hopelessness in ghetto neighborhoods, as themes of hope and renewal often emerged.
Why We Can’t Wait book cover, 1963/reprinted 1968 THF266487
By the late 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s long-running campaign of nonviolent direct action was falling out of favor with those who believed that more militant action was necessary. Then, in April 1968, King’s assassination sent shock waves of grief, fear, and anger throughout African American communities, leading to rioting and looting in more than 100 cities.
This 1963 book, considered King’s most incisive and eloquent work, was reprinted after his assassination with the editor’s hope that its distribution would “help preserve the memory of this wise and courageous America, so that his words may continue to guide the way toward human dignity for all.” The prophetic quote on the front cover of this edition comes from King’s speech to Memphis sanitation workers the night before he was assassinated.
At a freedom march in 1966, Stokely Carmichael (then Chairman of SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) set a new tone for the black freedom movement by leading marchers in the chant, “We Want Black Power.” Drawing upon long traditions of racial pride and Black Nationalism, Black Power advocates believed that African Americans could no longer afford to believe their “liberation” would come through non-violent action or traditional political processes. As the authors of this seminal book argued, the poverty and powerlessness of this country’s black population had made it imperative to organize their own political structure and take control over their own communities and lives.
Balancing the more militant aspects of the Black Power era was the doctrine of Black Pride, which including being proud of one’s heritage. Until this time, social studies textbooks had depicted African Americans as either coming from a state of barbarism and savagery or transplanted from a place that simply had no history at all.
Books like this one both helped to remedy this situation as well as contribute to an emerging movement called “Pan-Africanism”—the recognition that the destinies of all people living in or having come from Africa were intertwined. African Americans eagerly shared pride in the recent gains made by African countries to win their independence.
Renewed interest in black heritage brought about a growing nationwide effort to develop Black Studies programs, curricula, and textbooks that presented a different and more equal treatment of African Americans.
James Buntin was a passionate advocate of implementing what was then called a multi-ethnic curriculum in schools—which sought to challenge prevailing Eurocentric curricula by recovering and reconstructing the stories of Americans whom history had traditionally neglected. To Be a Slave, considered a groundbreaking work of the time, included personal accounts of ex-slaves, “described in vivid and often painful detail.” Some of these oral history accounts had been published before, others were drawn from sources long forgotten.
This book, part of Dr. Buntin’s multi-ethnic curriculum collection, presented a graphic portrait of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The photographs were originally compiled for an exhibit at San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum—a show that proved to be both controversial and highly popular.
The Black Panther Party, founded in 1966 in West Oakland, California, was one of the more militant groups to emerge out of the Black Power movement. Black Panthers both participated in armed patrols to protect local citizens from police brutality and organized myriad community service programs. At its peak, the Black Panther Party maintained chapters in 48 states in North America and support groups in other countries.
Amidst the student demonstrations, protests, and disruptions on college campuses during the late 1960s-early 1970s, African-American students demanded a greater voice in administrative policy. Referred to collectively as the Black Student or Black Action movement, these demands sometimes turned into bitter confrontations, including a student protest and strike in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in March 1970. The results of these confrontations varied, but many universities created Black, or Afro-American, Studies programs or departments in the 1970s.
In this book, author Harry Edward, a Sociology Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, places Black student movements within the larger contexts of the human rights struggle and the Black Power movement.
We Walk the Way of the World book cover, 1970/3rd printing 1971 THF266637
During this era, a blossoming Black Arts movement advocated a “black aesthetic,” meaning artistic expression rooted in African cultural heritage, incorporating the contemporary black experience, and aimed at Black audiences.
Poetry as a literary form flourished, as it was intended to be read aloud and often incorporated the direct “call and response” style of black churches. Don Lee, the author of this book of poems and a prominent figure in the Black Arts movement, was instrumental in reinforcing Black-spoken language, the language of familiar experience, in his poems.
The Black Arts movement helped lay the foundation authors such as Maya Angelou, hip-hop music and culture, and other later black cultural expressions.
Donna Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.
One-Room School is one of The Henry Ford’s longest-running programs. It has made memories for generations; current teachers and staff members remember coming to Greenfield Village for this program as children themselves. And now we have revised our One-Room School Teacher’s Guide to update the program.
New England Institute of Technology, with three campuses in Rhode Island, has formed its own Quadricycle Club. The purpose of this club is to have Mechanical Engineering Technology (MCT) students, as well as interested students from any of the college’s more than 40 academic programs, work collaboratively towards a goal of reverse engineering, manufacturing, and building Henry Ford’s first automobile, the Quadricycle. Club Advisor, Christopher Vasconselas, a faculty member in the MCT program is thrilled to see the excitement in his students as they bring their very own Quadricycle to life. The club meets anywhere from 2-5 hours per week, and the members hope to have the Quadricycle ready to take its maiden voyage in two years—a labor of love for certain.
The club was formed one year ago and now has 20 members who are familiar with various computer software programs such as SolidWorks mechanical design software as well as Microsoft Word and Excel. They work with equipment such as a manual engine lathe, manual vertical mill, horizontal and vertical band saw, pedestal grinder, and belt sander. There are many activities and skills that these students must perform in the building of the Quadricycle, some of which include interpreting engineering drawings, solid modeling using SolidWorks software, raw material and parts quoting, machining metal, basic carpentry work, electrical wiring, welding, and assembly. In fact, the students are making the majority of the parts from scratch with only 10-15 percent being produced by outside vendors. One student is even doing welding at home. Everyone is so enthusiastic!
The students are honing their electrical, carpentry, machining and assembly skills. So far, they have manufactured the main bearings, front spindle arm, drive pulley, ignition spring holder, drive pulley washers, drive sprocket, connecting rods, rear engine support, timing gear bolt, drive sprocket pins, rudder connector, water jackets, front engine mount, rear axle bearings, front engine bolt and support, and jackshaft.
Two students built a Quadricycle dolly so the car can be easily moved from place to place during construction.
The New England Tech Quadricycle is the only one of its kind in Rhode Island. After taking it for a few spins around the college parking lot, Chris hopes to showcase the Quadricycle at the college for faculty, staff, students and visitors to enjoy. To follow the club’s progress, email Chris at email@example.com or call 401-739-5000, ext. 3617. You can view his photo library here.
Under the leadership of President Richard I. Gouse, New England Institute of Technology is a private, non-profit technical college with an enrollment of more than 3,000 students. The college is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.
By Linda Dionne. Since 2009, Linda A. Dionne has served as Media Relations Specialist at New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich, RI. In addition to writing articles for various trade publications and blogs, Linda is responsible for preparing and distributing press releases as well as coordinating all media requests and interviews. Linda is also the editor for the college’s quarterly newspaper, Tech News, and a monthly on-line newsletter, Tech Talk. Linda is a graduate of Bryant University (RI) with a Bachelor of Science degree in management and marketing.
Posing next to the life-size statue of Henry Ford (object ID 2003.117.1) outside of the Michigan Café.
On a Friday morning in March during my spring break my phone rang. I woke up and groggily answered the phone. The call was from The Henry Ford. It was one of my future mentors calling to ask me to interview for their Simmons Graduate Internship in the Curatorial Department. A few short hours, several cups of coffee, and a quick review of my resume later, I had completed my phone interview. I felt pretty good about how it had gone, but the waiting came next, and two weeks later I had a voicemail offering me the internship. I was ecstatic. I could hardly believe The Henry Ford wanted me for the summer, and that my project was research, something I never had the time to do. It couldn’t get much better.
As a Masters Candidate in the Eastern Illinois University Historical Administration program, I am required to complete six months of full-time internship work. The first three months I am spending at The Henry Ford. As a member of this year’s intern group of three, I work closely with the Curatorial Department. The other two interns and I are working on a project that involves the Adams House (also called the Adams Family Home—not to be confused with thatAddams family!) in Greenfield Village, and it has been my job to do the research portion of this project. As I am halfway through this experience, I am reflecting on what I have learned thus far.
The core of my research focuses on the town of Saline, Mich., and the First Baptist Church, which in 1846 built the parsonage that now is in Greenfield Village. Through my research efforts I have developed new skills and honed ones I already possessed. For starters, I have mastered Ancestry.com, a tool that makes researching people a lot of fun; in fact, sometimes I get a little carried away. I also have access to the resources of the Benson Ford Research Center. Did you know if you put all the shelves together in the stacks of the research center it would be about five miles of shelving?
At work examining collection pieces.
Another skill I am learning is communication, as I send out research questions and requests and correspond with people across the country and even across the Atlantic Ocean, where I’ve been in contact with Oxford and the Bristol Baptist College. My daily tasks vary from week to week, and my “To-Do” list seems to be growing by the second. The weight of the job, and the expectations that come from it, are very real, as I have to meet deadlines, go to meetings, discuss the project, and present my work.
A few of my tasks have included researching different stories that might be told in the Adams House and developing those stories so they are applicable to the message The Henry Ford wishes to emphasize. My favorite part of researching is discovering the stories of the people – and I have come across some good stories. For example, the Reverend Charles Evans served as a missionary in Sumatra from 1819-1826 during a time of political unrest and tiger and elephant stampedes. Later on he is the minister in Saline, living in our parsonage with six children. These people are so real to me I feel I could sit down and have a conversation with them.
I have also had the opportunity to go collection hunting, which is possibly more difficult than buying jeans. Sometimes objects end up in the wrong place, without a number, or buried behind a giant papier-mâché foot—for example. But even with the odds stacked against us hidden treasures can be uncovered.
Some of the treasures we've discovered in storage:
These “finds” are a thing of joy, especially when they create opportunities to enhance a storyline. This process so far has allowed me to utilize the information I learned in my schooling and apply it to my work at The Henry Ford. It has also given me access to brilliant minds and visions and has expanded my own ability to perform. This experience has proven difficult, fun, crazy, but most importantly, it is the reason I like to get up in the morning and come to work. I never know what I will find when I’m digging into the past!
Clarissa Thompson is one of the 2013 Simmons Graduate Interns at The Henry Ford.
I had the distinct honor of being named one of the top 10 winners of the PBS/The Henry Ford national Teacher Innovators award in 2011. I spent a week that summer attending the Innovation Immersion workshop, at The Henry Ford, which was the actual award.
As a master teacher of 26 years, with substantial experience in curriculum development (at both local and state levels) and educational technology integration, I have reached a point in my career where it can be very easy to coast or repeat what I have done in the past. I am lucky to have been involved in a new and substantial educational technology roll-out at my district, and act as one of the district Technology Integration Specialists. I end up leading a tremendous amount of professional development, and while this helps keep me motivated and “forces” me to be continually learning so I can train in a turnkey manner, sometimes its hard to find professional development that really gets me excited.
Burn out (or sheer laziness) is always a worry for me.
The Teacher Innovator award required me to really take a look at some of the ways I was teaching, and to do some serious reflection focused into a very specific direction. To be able to follow up that experience with a week of deep immersion at The Henry Ford was a truly outstanding and highly motivating professional development experience. The combination of meeting, talking and working with other highly motivated and innovative teachers (from all grade levels and subject areas), with added direction from Paula Gangopadhyay and the team at The Henry Ford, and with the amazing resources available at (and the wonderful setting of) The Henry Ford, was an incredibly stimulating (and led directly to my being involved in some very worthwhile online professional learning communities).
It didn't take much reflection during the remaining days of my summer “vacation” to realize that The Henry Ford’s facilities, its resources and the philosophy of Henry Ford himself, embodied so well by The Henry Ford, were a perfect fit to, and a wonderful reinforcement, of many of the philosophies I have believed in for some time - philosophies that are quickly coming to prominence in many progressive areas of education. The ideas of project based learning, cross curriculum and multi-disciplinary approaches to education and the idea of a switch from STEM to STEAM education.
Not only does The Henry Ford embody these ideas, but they have the resources, both educational and physical, to put these ideas into real world practice quite smoothly and effectively. I left with pages of ideas, and have only added to these over the course of the last year and a half, and the network of friends, colleagues and mentors created by a week at The Henry Ford has helped to keep the initial burst of enthusiasm burning.
I am grateful to PBS and The Henry Ford for providing me this unique professional development and innovative leadership experience. I am extremely happy that PBS and The Henry Ford are continuing to encourage teachers each year to think out-of-the-box, use digital tools to reinvent education and provide rich contextual tools to further teaching and learning as part of the award. For anyone searching for real-life, exciting and effective 21st century professional development, Paula, The Henry Ford, Innovation 101 curriculum, the OnInnovation web resource and the Teacher Innovation Award are a combination well-suited to meet that need.
By Keith Rosko, Fine Arts Department Chairperson and Technology Integration Specialists