What's Next

As the fall term came to a close, we had no idea what to do with the Innovations class. Should we just repeat it? What about the students who wanted to keep going further?

There are few things worse than disappointing a young person, yet it happens all the time. They have an experience that ignites their curiosity only to be told that the experience is over. Time to move on to the next topic or the next class. The disappointment in their eyes says it all: “But I really liked doing that...” Over time, they become cynical about their learning experiences, just like adults. We are used to disappointment.

Patrick and Jami faced this challenge at the end of that first term. For some students, Innovations was just another class. But others were on fire. They were excited and wanted more.

But there was no clear way to teach them – so Jami came up with a new idea. Rather than find a way to teach them, they would be given a different opportunity to keep learning. Patrick would help guide and support them, but it would be the students’ responsibility to learn.

They would be assigned to a new class, Innovations 2, that would be held at the same time as the core class, Innovations 1, for new students. While Patrick would lead the main class, they would be given tables in back to work on projects as an independent study. Patrick would be teaching both sets of students, in the same room, at the same time.

The more advanced students were doing all sorts of projects, driven by their personal interests. The students in the introductory class saw them working away, which inspired their own learning. They could see how they could apply their new skills to complex problem solving that was exciting the more experienced students.

Patrick’s space was being transformed by the students. It was still messy, but now filled with creative energy. The art students wanted to get involved – they painted the walls and the ceiling tiles. The space certainly wasn’t pristine, but it was alive.

It was also way too small. So Jami began to work on plans to reconfigure the classrooms to create a much larger room for Patrick: an Innovation Lab. She applied for a grant from the Department of Education, but her vision for this new i3 Center was well beyond the imagination of those who wrote the grant guidelines.

So she worked with her superintendent to cobble together some funds to help pay for a small renovation. She also needed volunteers to pull it off, and for that, she had to develop community support for this vision.

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