Welcome to the 2018-19 school year! I am Kelly Wilson, Director of Innovative and Entrepreneurial Programs based out of the Graw Innovation Center at Severn School. From time to time, I would like to share with you my thoughts on the work we do in the center and how it impacts our community.
Creating Defining Moments
Communities thrive when they share common experiences and goals. Chip and Dan Heath, business and education strategists and authors of Make it Stick, have written a new book, The Power of Moments, where they discuss how we are impacted by certain moments in our lives more than others, moments that stand out. They describe a defining moment as “a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.” The Heath brothers also outline characteristics of these memorable experiences: insight, elevation, pride, and connection.
This year, our Middle and Upper Schools participated in cross-grade level build challenges during their respective Innovation and STEM days. Students and faculty worked in small groups for two hours to attempt seemingly simple building tasks — to create scale models of a solar collector tower, robotic arm or tennis racket out of common craft supplies. Group assignments were random to encourage everyone to work with others outside of their normal classes or social circles. After faculty gave instructions, our students planned, created and tested their designs. As the organizer and "supervisor" of these events, it was fascinating to see the way both students and faculty interact and participate.
Insight, Elevation and Pride
In the beginning, there is hesitation. To put yourself out there with others you may not know, to make suggestions or offer a plan of action, takes courage. It takes courage to be creative without letting the fear of rejection stop you. And for our teachers, it takes courage to lead an event when you aren't sure of the outcomes.
But slowly the momentum builds as ideas flow. Students realize (insight) that even though this is a competition with multiple judging criteria (elevation and pride) the pressure that occurs when a grade is on the line is missing. It is okay to fail.
Something magical happens when the testing phase begins. Laughter and cheers echo in classrooms and hallways as designs fail and succeed. Teams share ideas, make modifications and try again and again to reach the goal. In the end, not all teams were successful but all of them tried. That group effort brings our community together. For those two hours, everyone in the school worked together to beat the challenge, but the real goal is creating a community of learners and educators where failing is okay and being there for others matters (connection).
Stay tuned for more about the Graw Innovation Center this year! My goal is to create “defining moments,” for our students and faculty alike, through innovation, collaboration and critical thinking.