On March 4, I read a blog post by Josh Stumpenhorst titled Innovation Day. Josh's idea of Innovation Day aimed to give students complete autonomy and choice, so that passion and creativity would be at the heart of learning. The beauty of Innovation Day was that students were given complete autonomy to design a school day to match their interests. For some people this was building, while for others this was playing music. While a handful of students spent the day writing, others spent it producing dance. The end result was total student investment, innovation, and a true recognition of the whole child.
After reading the post, I was instantly inspired. Why couldn't we do this at my school? Without thinking I emailed the post to my staff. The body of the email read something like "could we?" The faculty jumped on and my amazing principal gave me the go ahead to plan it. I immediately contacted Josh via Twitter and he gave me some tips and some of the forms he used. One of the things I truly appreciate is that Josh did not give me a ton of specifics. He was more than helpful, but you could tell he also knew that my school's take on Innovation Day would be different than his. At first some of the staff was a little hesitant with the lack of structure, but as we started to plan the anticipation grew.
We gave ourselves about two months of leeway to plan and organize the event. We let the students in on it early on and gave them some time to think about what THEY wanted to do on Innovation Day. We then gave them a simple plan sheet to sort out their thinking and put some thoughts on paper. It also gave us an opportunity to help divide students into general interest areas. These general interest groups were created:
PRESS TEAM SCIENCE HISTORY SPORTS/ACTING SCULPTING/BUILDING
WRITING/COMIC BOOKS PAINTING/DRAWING PHOTOGRAPHY/FASHION
TECHNOLOGY BBQ COOKING/BAKING MUSIC
After figuring out what students wanted to do, we had to make sure all projects would be feasible. The hardest issue was cooking and baking. We put a blast out to the community and asked for ovens to cook some of the food related items. We also had volunteers sign up to shuttle food from said homes to school. These are just some of the issues we had to attack together as a faculty to put this event on. What this process has shown us is that we can really work together to make something great for the kids.
All this planning is about to pay off. Innovation Day for my school is May 17, Tuesday. Students will be filming, painting, sculpting, acting, writing, and cooking. They are beyond excited. They constantly bring it up and talk about it. I am sure the day will bring craziness, but I hope we can capture student passion and continue to excite students. There will be a total shift on May 17--students will wake up WANTING to come to school. If this idea of student autonomy works, we have exciting plans for next year. We are thinking of having students select art interest groups and give them thirty minutes to an hour a week to develop that interest. It could be painting, it could be acting, it could be digital design. This really pumps me up. Some of the eighth graders are already complaining that they have to leave when we are making all these cool changes. My hope is that one day all schools embrace this type of learning.
As one student put it, "Innovation Day is only one day". She is right, but the hope is that with this success more and more school days will be truly innovative.
I will let you know how the day goes