When you get a degree in teaching, you can’t graduate without writing countless objectives that inevitably start “students will…” and end with some content objective. On a larger scale, schools justifiably have outcomes and expectations of students. We put marker to white board this week and, in an effort to get in sync with each other’s expectations of Innovation Lab, came up with a list of our own. They’re not so broad that they’ll float into a cloud of eduspeak and not so specific that even we find them tedious. Students will be part of a community of readers. Students will interpret, model, and analyze data. There are tons of lists of school-wide “students will”s out there, but when you create your own, there’s more motivation to make them come to fruition.
When you walk into a school dedicated to true project-based learning, the space is a huge part of that. We sketched out what we think is appropriate for our students and left room to grow into ourselves. We can’t know everything we need until we have students who ask for it. The non-negotiables? Get rid of desks and replace them with the right tables that can flex based on group size. Create nooks in a humanities class that reflect the ambiance of a coffee shop (there’s a reason people read in those, you know). Have tools in a STEM class to make things you can use to measure and discover phenomena. Dedicate room for maker spaces that foster creativity instead of compliance. If you need to plan and research as a group, why can’t it be done somewhere other than a desk? In schools, we sometimes disassociate comfort and hard work. There are schools that disprove this by example and we hope to bring parts of what we’ve seen to Innovation Lab.
We always get back to big picture conversations. It’s taken me a while to really understand that in the humanities, Innovation Lab isn’t as big of a change as it is for science and math. It can be difficult to push the envelope and adjust what we currently see as school. It takes a lot of research, endless planning, and a rethink of what it means to learn an age-old topic like exponential decay. On top of all that? A bit of a leap of faith.