I had the opportunity to visit NuVu Studio: The Innovation School last week in Cambridge, MA. NuVu is doing a number of remarkable things in partnership with Beaver Country Day School, which sends approximately 30 high school students each trimester to the NuVu campus to spend 8 weeks deeply engaged in the innovation & design thinking process.
Each session has a theme. The theme for this past winter session was “health”. Students engaged in 2-week-long projects that explored different problematic prompts. I had the opportunity to speak with Laurel and hear her share about an incredibly innovative product designed to promote health by servicing a need that people face when they are on the brink of death. Laurel and her group engaged in the complete design thinking process (as depicted in the above graphic) multiple times over to ultimately produce a functional and portable IV kit that attaches to a nalgene bottle and is able to filter, sterilize, and heat a water solution for combating hypothermia in backcountry or high altitude circumstances when emergency responders may be a long way off. I invite you to learn, through text and images, more about her group’s project by viewing their online portfolio.
While the product itself was captivating to me given my love of the outdoors and penchant for mountaineering, what was even more riveting was unique and transferable skill set these high school students had gained in a few short weeks (and those heavily interrupted by winter weather at that!). The NuVu students learned and practiced the skills of:
Asking thought provoking questions of each other and relevant experts.
Collaboratively approaching a problem, learning to leverage the strengths of each group member for the success of the team and the project.
Navigating obstacles, whether they be challenges in design, technology, group dynamics, or thought…persevering through the iterative process of design thinking to the resultant end of a workable prototype.
Increasing facility with a wide variety of different tools and skills that traditionally take full high school or college courses to master. Students did not enter the doors of NuVu with the ability to use 3D printers and its associated software, wield laser cutters, examine swaths of computer code for errors, complete wiring and electrical circuits, discuss medical diagnoses, and more. However they left with confidence and competence to use their resources to get the answers they need to continue moving the design thinking process forward.
Confidently advocating for their perspective and approach.
Communicating their thinking verbally, via a variety of multimedia tools, and in articulate text to convey process, possibilities, and product.
When given the time, the freedom, and the tools to focus on a single problem the ideas generated by these young minds were unbelievably impressive. These students used high-level skills in all curriculum areas (mathematics, programming, writing, reading, science, history, communications, etc.) throughout their work. It begs the question, how can we make this incredibly valuable, transformative, and applicable-to-the-future experience more broadly available in independent schools? What creativity is lost by requiring completion of a set course of study before students are presented with real-world dilemmas? What lives could be saved or bettered if children, who are often deep wells of empathy, were given meaningfully structured opportunities in their education to truly unleash the power of their intellect and creativity? What lessons does the NuVu Studio have for us that we can apply to ensure that our children are prepared for THEIR future…and not our past?
I recently attended the annual NAIS conference in Boston. I worked with two other strong, confident, and thoughtful women leaders from school’s in California to present a 3-hour workshop on leadership and the work of the a division head. Take a look at what one of the attendees had to say as she responded to our workshop highlights:
One of the speakers at the NAIS Annual Conference was Sunni Brown, champion of doodling as a valued form of thinking – both process thinking and representative thinking. She spoke about visual literacy. As a long-time doodler myself (literally decades of fostering…and sometimes hiding or resisting…this habit) I wanted to scream and jump and applaud her for shedding light on how important visual representation is. Think about your students who doodle and consider thinking innovatively about how to channel their need to put pen to paper and produce a picture towards learning…instead of trying to shut them down. Can joy around visual representation produce greater focus, investment, and engagement in learning? I believe it can! Enjoy these thought-provoking resources from Sunni:
Though snow days and delays are stacking up – the reality is that missed school days don’t have to be a lost opportunity for your children/students to continue learning and growing. They don’t have to all become lazy, purposeless days (though research shows that boredom and slowing down are both healthy triggers for innovation and happiness). With the right mindset and perspective, the unexpected gift of time can be a chance to create, learn, rest, and connect….with the outdoors, with books, with your creative side, and with each other. Play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for children. Here are some helpful resources to spark ideas for days when Mother Nature says “Nope!”:
Since the proliferation of screens (big and small) began to sky rocket, health and science professionals have been trying to get a handle on the impacts of screen time on the health, wellness, and development of children and adults. As screens take hold in classrooms as well, being abreast of the most recent research and up-to-date findings (positive and negative) regarding screen time is necessary. Best parenting and teaching practices are constantly evolving – and though rules or recommended restrictions may shift in small and large ways…the take away should really be quality over quantity and everything in moderation.
“Zero to Three, a nonprofit research organization focused on infants, toddlers and their families, published Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight. The report summarized existing research and encouraged child-adult interactions. Screen time is most effective when adults and children use electronic devices together, it said…There is no definitive set of rules — the research and our perception is evolving.”
“The issue seems to be that children with screens (large or small) present in the bedroom go to bed later than those without. The children all woke up at the same time to go to school. The study doesn’t go as far as figuring out what specifically about the screens kept the the children from sleeping. NPR explains: This study wasn’t designed in a way that could figure out what was causing the sleep loss and tiredness — whether the kids were actually using the devices thus exposing themselves to light and stimulating content, say, or whether getting calls or alerts during the night interrupted sleep”
While teachers of children at all ages know that providing meaningful and authentic choices can impact student engagement, enjoyment, and ownership over their learning…the reality is that not everyone (nor every culture) approaches or responds to choice in the same way.
These two resources from TED shed insight on how we make choices, how our choices impact our attitudes and beliefs, and how our cultural background informs how choice fits within our value system. Children’s cultures and home lives are intrinsically important parts of their world, and will inevitably impact how they respond to choices. These are useful resources for 21st century educators navigating increasingly global and diverse classroom environments.
There’s nothing like the impending New Year to send the web into a fierce storm of retrospectives and Top Ten (or any other number) lists reflecting on the highlights of 2014. So, I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Here are some (six, if you’re counting) of my favorite things worth noodling on as we hit the “refresh” button for another year.
2014: The Year in Ideas – An 8 minute recap of the most watched, most powerful, most moving TED talks of 2014. Prepare to have your curiosity piqued and your excitement ignited for the ideas ahead in 2015.
NASA Emails Working Wrench to Space Station – Wait, what?! This is just too cool. 3-D printers are being used to manufacture tools to suit the need-of-the-minute for astronauts troubleshooting in space. Need a tool? No problem – have that to you in an e-jiffy. Another reason to think carefully and innovatively about the future we are preparing our children/students for.
TED Talk: The Surprising Science of Happiness – Whoa….a person can be happy when they don’t get what they want? Equally happy? EVEN MORE HAPPY?! Amazing stuff about the power you have to define and actualize your own happiness.
Women In Science Illustrations – An incredible look at one artist’s representation of key female figures in the history of science. Graphic design + inspiring women advancing the field of science = even more reasons to go forth into the new year ready to meet what comes.
This TED Talk Playlist provides 11 talks geared for students (and some given by students) in the late elementary through high school age range. From the astonishing wonders of various sea creatures, play-dough, electricity, & large-scale puppetry to spoken word poetry, the feminist voice of young teenage women, and the global street-dance culture…there’s sure to be something here to pique the curiosity and wonder of you and your children/students.
Some good nuggets in here on modeling gratitude by living gratefully, patiently, kindly, & flexibly in front of children.
“I will remember the success trajectory is a squiggle … not a straight line. Few of us become successful by simply putting one foot in front of the other. Most of us encounter a multitude of twists, turns, direction changes, and stops on the way to our goals.”
So, here we are, approaching the season of holidays galore…and with that the hurried making and checking-off of lists, cleaning, shopping, attending, hosting, cooking, etc. etc. etc. As we think about being thankful, as we think about giving and all of the ways it truly allows us to receive, as we think about what matters…may these two articles provoke some thought for teachers and for parents on behalf of keeping all our children anchored in what we truly value and taking time to slow down and be present.
Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind. – including the why, how, and concrete strategies to try.
How two minutes of mindfulness can calm a class and boost attainment. – including links to relevant scientific research and resources for specific ways of using mindfulness practices with children.