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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Teaching to the Future


On Wednesday, St. Ed's welcomed students from Saint Albert the Great's seventh and eighth grade classes for a Young Innovators' Institute field trip. Through the Young Innovators' Institute, the students from Saint Albert the Great have worked diligently over the course of 13 weeks through each step of the design cycle. This process has included brainstorming, prototyping, testing, and most recently, script writing for their product marketing campaigns. Students spent a full day on St. Ed's campus utilizing the Lowe Institute for Innovation, makerspaces, and film labs in order complete their physical products and to create their marketing commercials. Using everything from laser cutters to professional Sony cameras, students had any resource they needed at their fingertips to design their products, write out their advertisement scripts across the dry-erase walls of the Ideation Space, and film their commercials like a pro.

"This experience was a perfect mix of St. Ed's resources, spaces and people, but I think it's the people who really make the most difference," says Associate Dean of Academics and IB Coordinator Mr. Nick Kuhar. "Dan Mackin '04, Director of Admission, and Principal KC McKenna '00, always work at this level where they believe everyone is capable of great things and of creatively solving problems. It's a huge benefit to gift young students with professional equipment and to watch them become comfortable enough with it and feel like they can see their own growth as artists and makers."

"I most enjoyed the eagerness with which the students from Saint Albert the Great approached each step of the design process," says Mr. Mackin. "Whether they were deciding on the name of their product, materials to be used, or the best camera angle for a scene in their commercial, excited voices and energy were present in each discussion."

St. Ed's Young Innovators' Institute seeks to fully engage students in the design cycle to launch new ideas, create solutions and dive into cutting edge innovation to create well-rounded imaginers, creators and innovators. While providing students with the resources and equipment to create a successful product, these experiences are created so that students are faced with challenges throughout the process to activate their problem-solving skills.

"The biggest thing for me is seeing how experiences like this can enable young students to see failure as just a step toward really great, creative solutions. It can really help in taking the terror out of failure," says Mr. Kuhar. "We often start exercises like this by asking the question, 'How many times has the basketball season gone the way Michael Jordon or LeBron James wanted it to go?' For Michael, it was 6 of 17 and for LeBron it was 3 of 16. They averaged 35% and just under 20%, but we'd never dare call them failures. There are so many losses that you have to go through if you're trying to solve really tough problems. It's important to find a way to rethink what failure really is and means."

This co-ed Young Innovators' experience resonates with St. Ed's vision for the future: to empower students to create the world in which they will live, work and serve. By teaching to the future, we can create the future. Allowing students, at any age, the opportunity to tackle complex, real-world problems helps them gain both the competence and the confidence to face any challenge and to create solutions that will change the world.

"I attended a single-sex school and have taught at one for 11 out of my 13 years in teaching - it's certainly home to me. About four years ago though, I came across two articles. The first revealed to me that less than 5% of the members of the American Society of Cinematographers are women, while the second reported that, in 2009, men outnumbered women in STEM three to one," says Mr. Kuhar. "Progress is being made to encourage and support women who want to pursue careers in STEM and the film industry, but it's days like this, when both young women and young men get to experiment and gain confidence with engineering and digital storytelling, that are uniquely rewarding."

"The immersive experience of the Young Innovators' Institute provides students with the opportunity to see themselves as creators, engineers, marketers, actors, and directors," says Mr. Mackin. "The biggest takeaway for the students was the realization that the design cycle, when broken down into its smaller steps and stages, is a process that anybody can successfully complete. Finishing the day with completed products after 13 weeks of planning, building, testing, and re-testing was a major accomplishment and something in which these young innovators can take pride."

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