Monthly Archives: June 2016

Where Ideas Go to Die

funeralImage Credit: Pixabay.com

Good idea. Bad idea. Things are not always black and white.  Even the best ideas (or intentions) can lead to bad things if the culture of a school is not conducive to innovation.

 

It’s easy to say that we will do what’s best for kids, but more difficult to discern what is actually best when considering the potential impact on different stakeholders.  Is research-based best practice the gold standard that we should never deviate from?  Or is there room for new and untested ideas in education?

 

I tend to believe that kids deserve both, and so it pains me to know that there have been times that I’ve been a barrier to innovation.  I know that I have made decisions that stifled progress.  For example, this past school year one of our teachers approached me with an idea.  He wanted to have our entire school (approximately 860 students) meet outside for an all-school photograph to commemorate our 50th anniversary…and he wanted the photo to be taken from a few hundred feet in the air.

 

I thought the idea of an aerial shot taken from one of our school’s drones sounded cool, but my visceral response was one of hesitancy.  I tried to dissuade him because I thought that getting nearly 1,000 people (students and staff) outside at the same time would be too intrusive on teachers’ busy schedules.  If I’m being completely honest, I probably also wanted to avoid undue criticism from anyone who was not super excited about the idea.

 

My perspective was skewed towards protecting the “routine” so we could keep moving forward.  After all, what is best for kids is protecting the learning environment and their routine…right?!

 

Fortunately, the teacher who wanted to add this neat drone video perspective was pretty passionate about the idea.  I quickly realized that a school’s 50th anniversary may actually be grounds for disrupting the routine.  Long story short, we all met outside and it turned out to be some of the most amazing video footage I’ve ever seen.  The best part is that our students are still raving about it.

50Image Credit: Twitter via @GWtechWPS

 

When I stare at the picture above it’s hard for me to distinguish their faces, but I do remember their reactions.  They loved it.  After watching the drone video they even started to think differently about things.  I think we all did.  This served as a reminder that there is an opportunity cost to what we say no to.  Even if it is under the guise of “what’s best for kids.”

 

Most people do not wake up in the morning wanting to dash another person’s dreams…oftentimes we do it unknowingly.   I pray that “What’s Best for Kids” is not where ideas go to die.  I pray that I am not the person who kills them.

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My Friends Don’t Know

 
adam w

What do dollhouses and cookbooks have to do with teaching & reaching kids? You might be surprised!

Seeing a 12-year old sing her heart out while playing the ukulele is awesome, especially when she has a voice that could be measured in pure inspiration instead of decibels.  What really struck us about the video below is what she said before playing for the judges:
 
“Most of my friends don’t even know I sing.”
Crank up your speakers and check this short video out!
 
How many kids in our schools have talents that we as educators don’t even know about? That their friends don’t know about?! We should be in the business of helping to make our students famous for their contributions to the world, but first we need to know about them.
 
I (Brad) have always believed that our classrooms could have the next Mia Hamm, Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, or J. K. Rowling sitting inside them right now.  At this very minute.  Think about it…the next worksheet we pass out could be going to the next Albert Einstein.  In other words, we just might be assigning some form of rote learning or other misaligned work to students who are capable of devising new ways to prove the Pythagorean theory…like Einstein (true story).
 
Will we rob the world of the next philanthropist, artist, or engineer in our unyielding pursuit to “educate” kids?  Will we all miss out on our children’s brilliance because we fail to ask our students what matters to them?  How many missed opportunities have there been for kids because their passion and talents are hibernating inside of them without anyone aware of the sleeping bear inside!
 
This raises some very important questions:
  • How will we know?
  • How will their friends know?
  • What is the world counting on us to discover about our students?
  • What’s YOUR talent or passion?
 
We (Brad and Adam) are ready to expose a couple talents that some of our own friends don’t even know about.  If our passions surprise you…imagine the true talent that our students possess.  Our goal in sharing this story is to shift the message in our classrooms from, “My friends don’t know” to “My teacher noticed!”
 
I (Adam) have always loved cooking and baking. In middle school I made every single cake in the Betty Crocker cookbook and would have all my friends and family taste test for me. We kept detailed notes on taste and texture and would always try to improve each time with a new cake.

Fast-forward twenty years, and the kitchen in our house is definitely my domain. When my wife and I went to the open house for the home that we now own, I actually sat down in the kitchen for twenty minutes and pictured myself cooking and baking for our family. Culinary discovery has been such a passion of mine for so long it’s something I hope carries over to my own children, and something I need to let my friends and students know about also!
 
I (Brad) have always loved woodworking.  When I was in elementary school my dad taught me how to use all of his power tools.  He even let me try to construct wooden replicas for pieces of furniture that had been broken around the house.  He was a mentor and encourager who really invested in my passion to create.
 
Fast-forward to today, and when I’m building in the woodshop there is something special about the smell of fresh cut sawdust and my favorite song blaring on the radio that gets me every time.  My latest projects include building a custom dollhouse for each of my three kids.  My two girls requested multi-storied dollhouses that stand taller than they do.  My son decided he needed a “G.I. Joe” army-themed dollhouse base with a working jail, helipad, bunkhouse, and latrine.  
 
These are a couple of the passions we have.  Tell your friends something special about you – show your colleagues and school some vulnerability and they will reciprocate.  Most importantly, relentlessly pursue your kids’ hidden passions.  Protect, nurture, and celebrate your students’ strengths.  The world will be glad you did…and their friends will know.
Special thanks to Adam Welcome for co-writing this blog post!

Stop-Motion Virtual Tour

 

This school year, several students worked on a series of creative videos with our technology teacher, Mr. Hinnenkamp.  They learned different video production skills and tinkered with stop-motion, drone photography, GoPros, and more.

Their work was part of an after-school club that provided additional time/support for students to take their learning deeper.  Click HERE to view one of the videos the kids created.  It’s an innovative twist on the classic virtual tour.  We hope you enjoy the stop-motion tour of our school.

Be sure to check out our school’s website for more virtual tours…including one of my ALL-TIME favorites….the link is to a classic tour of our Media Center filmed from the perspective of “The Mouse on the Motorcycle!”  You can see from the video that the GoPro held up under some rough conditions!

 

Go Pro

Image Credit: Pixabay

We’d love to hear your ideas for future virtual tours and special effects our students could try out.  Please leave a comment or share a link to work your students and staff have created.

 

The Power of Connection

This week we welcomed former Greenwood Elementary students back home. Several graduating Seniors walked the hallways they once traversed as K-5 students.

Music played over the P.A. system to celebrate returning Alumni.  After the “walk” the Seniors took time to reconnect with former teachers and even shared some inspiring advice with our 5th graders.  Seeing the power of “connection” is hard to put into words.

This short (2 minute) video captured a few of the hugs, high-fives, and connections that were made.  Click HERE to view the video.

 

Yearbook

We’ll also be embedding this video into our K-5 students’ yearbooks using augmented reality (AR) technology.  To view the video using AR follow these three quick steps:

  1. Download the Aurasma app
  2. Follow the “Greenwood Elementary” channel
  3. Point the Aurasma viewfinder at the cover of the yearbook and watch the magic begin.

In addition to the “Welcome Home” video, we will also include several other fun surprise videos throughout the yearbook that are accessible using augmented reality and the directions above.  Enjoy the memories and stay connected!

“Once a Grizzly…Always a Grizzly.”

Image Credits for Video:

Thanks to Adam Hinnenkamp for the drone footage of Seniors as they arrived!

Special thanks to Greenwood Elementary and Wayzata District staff for sharing photos to the #GWgreats Twitter hashtag and shared folder in Google Drive.

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