After reading about many different schools and their Innovation Day experiences, we decided to give it a try on our campus. I say this often but I am so blessed to work for an administration that is willing to think outside of the box, try new things, and take risks to give our students meaningful learning opportunities.
So on May 29th, we held our 1st Annual Innovation Day. I was lucky enough to have connected Heather Russell from Region 10 earlier in the year and she shared all of their resources. A few weeks before Innovation Day, I visited each grade level and talked about what innovation is and why this day was so important. We watched Caine's Arcade and then I challenged them to think about what they would create, make, or design on Innovation Day. The teachers were given a link to share with their students. This link took them to the Google Form where they were asked what they were going to make on Innovation Day.
After all of the students completed the form, we sat down and divided them into rooms based on their projects. After looking at the projects, we came up with the following rooms: Cardboard, Architecture, Engineering, Technology, Art, Culinary Arts, Science/Math and Physical Education. The most popular rooms were Cardboard and Culinary Arts. Students were so excited to design their amazing creations from cardboard and actually mix, blend, and cook at school. We didn't even look at grade levels as we wanted the rooms to be multi-age.
We also asked our teachers to choose rooms that they would like to supervise. While some of our teachers were nervous about Innovation Day just because it was unlike anything we had ever done before, they were excited and willing to give it a try. We encouraged the teachers to choose a room that would give them an opportunity to learn. So we didn't want the teachers that loved to cook in the Culinary Arts room. Instead, we wanted the teachers to learn from the students. We wanted the students to be the experts and we wanted to learn from them and their creations. Before the big day, I shared this information with our teachers to prepare them for the big day.
Taking Heather's advice, we also had Wild Card options for students that didn't bring their materials, finished early, or just couldn't decide what to do. This was simply a list of projects that students could choose to complete. We offered a variety of options hoping they would find something that they would really enjoy.
Throughout the day, we also asked our students to reflect by asking them to respond to the following (again, thanks to Heather Russell):
What do you think today is going to be like?
How do you feel right now?
What is a challenge that you have faced today?
Draw a picture of what you created or designed today.
I won't lie and say that the day was perfect...it wasn't. There are so many things that we will do differently next year. But it was a success because our students were experiencing meaningful learning. They were solving problems, thinking critically, and collaborating while doing things were meaningful for them. In my opinion, it doesn't get any better than that. While walking around and visiting the different rooms, I couldn't help but notice that all of the students were engaged. They were interested in what they were doing and they were learning.
When the day was over, there was lots to clean up and lots of reflecting to do. I am so thankful for the teachers that stepped up and helped with the clean up and closure as I had to leave a little early to catch a flight. As I reflected on the day, I realized that we had given our students an opportunity to be themselves, to learn on their terms, and to experience school in a new way. It was a good day and even with all of the things we could have done differently, the kids LOVED it.
So now it's time to start thinking about Innovation Day 2016. I cannot wait!
Has your district/campus tried Innovation Day or something like it? Do you have any advice or suggestions for those wanting to try it? Please feel free to comment with questions or suggestions. I'd love to hear how other schools are making this happen!