A key area of focus for Riverside is on building a culture of innovation and creativity. As a school, we have spent a great deal of time finding ways to integrate technology into curriculum with the intent of opening up possibilities for students to express, create, learn from others, and connect with the greater community. As we’ve continued down this path, we have felt more compelled to look at ways that students can pursue their passions and find more purpose in their learning.
Over the past three months, we conducted a series of think tanks with staff and students.
The think tanks asked 5 questions to provoke discussion:
- Do you believe that we need more opportunities for staff and students to innovate/create? Why? Why not?
- What are we currently doing to embrace or enable creative/innovative opportunities for students and staff?
- What are the barriers to having more opportunities for students and staff to innovate/create?
- What are some ideas/suggestions to help build more opportunities to innovate/create?
- Where might there be opportunities within our school in order to build or generate more TIME to innovate/create?
Through this process, several themes emerged that are key areas in which we will begin to research and develop strategies to implement:
- School Atmosphere and Culture
- Community oriented
- Showcasing Learning
- Opportunities outside of class
- Emotional Health
- School Structure/Organization
- Timetable that offers more flexibility in the way of what to learn, how to learn, and when to learn
- Course Options/Offerings
- Opportunities for further support
- Rethinking class size and the way classes are structured
- Real World Application and Skills
- Student Choice
- Pedagogy (Teaching and Learning)
- Cross Curricular
- Teacher and Student Innovation
- Future skills/applications
- Rethinking assessment
- 21st Century Fluencies/Competencies
- Critical Thinking
Using these key ideas, we started to conduct some research on what other schools and organizations are doing to build more opportunities for innovation and creativity. This past Monday, we sent teams of staff out to ten different schools/organizations to begin our quest into what makes these schools or organizations positive exemplars for being innovative/creative. Our teams then returned in the afternoon with their findings to share out as a staff. I want to personally thank the following schools/organizations for accommodating us on these visits and for inspiring us:
- Finger Food Studios
- Fortius Sport and Health
- SKY-Richmond Virtual School
- Thomas Haney Secondary School
- Fraser Heights Secondary School
- Prince of Whales Secondary School- TREK Program
- SAIL- Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning
- Langley Fine Arts School
- John Oliver Secondary School- STEM Program
While it would be difficult to capture everything that we observed, here is a summary of some key learning:
- Make learning cross-curricular or multidisciplinary. Very little is learned in isolation.
- Ensure there is time built into the school for collaboration and innovation and make the schedule flexible.
- Consider space to innovate and create, such as Makerspaces, open areas, and common spaces to collaborate and ideate.
- Create a culture that includes time or opportunities to build team and get to know each other better, address emotional wellness (yoga, relaxation, mindfulness, stand up stations, food), take risks, learn from each other, encourage, recognize and acknowledge ideas and accomplishments, including failures, bring the outdoor into the learning space (picnic tables, plants, etc) or bring the learning space to the outdoors.
- Utilize technology. There are very few jobs that don’t use it and it’s a great way to connect with others in the field as well as share your thinking and learning.
- Maximize the use of Independent Directed Studies as an opportunity for students to engage in passion based projects while earning credit. Add some structure in the way of goal setting, student check-ins and presentations to help them with moving forward.
- Make mentorship part of the learning and consider the value of community mentors and older peer mentors.
- Cohorts offer opportunities for students to have more connections with others who share similar interests. This helps to create community.
- Find the balance between skills that require practice and refinement and the pursuit of passion through inquiry and innovation.
- When innovating, start small, experiment, and take the time to go big. Set some ground rules regarding how teams will work together, such as “all ideas welcome”, “no jerk” policy, sharing welcome, but no showboating
One piece of advice provided to us during our visits was that it’s important that staff and students see that their input from the think tanks has translated into action. Our intention is to begin working towards ideas and strategies that refine and enhance what we currently do at Riverside around innovation and creativity. We are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.