Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Modeling innovation

In 1981 I was working as a nanny in Florida.  The parents of the family I was working for had gone away on a business trip and I was left at home with 2 children.  When I heard that the first space shuttle was going to launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, I decided that this was a historic day and that the children really ought to be a part of it.  I took them out of school for the day and drove up to watch the launch.  We were a long way away of course, and didn't really see very much, though I still have some photos I snapped of the lift off.  This was many years before I became a teacher, in fact teaching wasn't a profession that I was in the least bit interested in in those days, yet I still remember the feeling that this was an educational experience for the children, that new ground was being broken, and that they really should be experiencing it.  I have no idea if those children, now adults, remember the day or appreciate the way that we stepped out of the usual routine in order to be there when it happened, but I hope so.  I hope they realized that sometimes you just have to seize a teachable moment.

As a teacher I've sometimes had to make similar decisions.  That something was happening in class, that the children were so engaged in it, and that we should ignore the clock telling us that it was now time to pack away and start our maths or reading lesson, and just go with the flow.  In elementary schools and in the PYP programme with its transdisciplinary approach, this is often easy.  In other situations I can imagine that it is impossible as students have to move to another classroom and another teacher.

I've been thinking about how easy it is (or not) for teachers to be innovators, and how important it is for teachers to be able to model this for their students.  A lot of this is down to the culture of a school and whether it supports risk-taking, which seems to be at the heart of innovation.  Does the school encourage teachers to be thinkers, so that they in turn can model thinking for their students?  Is there a willingness to explore new things, to be involved in research and development?  To be critical thinkers?  To try things out and to fail and to learn from this to try other things or ways that might succeed?

This week we had our first Maker Faire at ASB for parents in the Elementary School Maker Space.  Parents were able to explore different stations that were set up with different equipment, and were encouraged to think about setting up such a space at home for their children too.  I was interested in observing one of these stations which was aiming to solve a huge challenge - the garbage problems of Mumbai.  The parents were inquiring, collaborating and actively engaged in generating ideas and finding solutions.  For many being part of a Maker Faire was a new experience for them.  I'm happy that many mums and dads decided that it was worth stepping out of their usual routine and coming, even if it meant taking an hour or two off work.  What great role models they are for their children!

Photo Credit: p_c_w via Compfight cc

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