Innovation in Learning Study Group

East Coast: Greater than the sum of our parts

By: Nerissa Edwards

I have been asked if it is really valuable to have so many people on these innovation investigation trips. East Coast, West Coast  - that is a lot of money being spent.  And to be fully honest, I was not quite sure.  I was not even sure if I really wanted to go.  Like the rest of my colleagues, I have too many things pulling me in too many different directions and I was not sure if this was a good use of my time.  Couldn’t I just look at the websites of these schools and read the book Most Likely to Succeed?  Or watch the movie?

Nevertheless, on a cold November morning I got myself to Woodstock Union High School by 5:45AM to get into the Brown’s airport shuttle van.  Although I have worked with some of these people for 8 years I had not had many in depth conversations with many of them.  We don't cross pollinate very often at WUHSMS.  Two sophomore students, a special educator, a music teacher, a technology integration specialist and me -- a school counselor. For the 2 plus hour ride into Boston we enjoyed each other’s company and found a deep respect for Julie’s driving skills.

Upon arrival in Newton, we gathered with more members of the team - a computer science teacher, a middle school science teacher, a middle school English teacher, an elementary school principal, an elementary school librarian, the district Tech guy, the Superintendent, a School Board member, a parent, an architect!  I have been in education for 28 years and only once I have I been with such an eclectic group.

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Our friendly driver, Frank, drove us to the first stop: Harvard’s Innovation lab.  We were greated by David Stevens who spoke to us about the building and its uses.  When it was time to ask questions and physically poke around, I found myself excited by the questions posed by the others.  One was concerned about the environmental aspect, another the moveable walls and furnishings.  What was I thinking!?!?!? I could never had learned all of this by reading the website! Being able to talk with students using the spaces and seeing aspects that I want to replicate was amazing. The space reminded me of co-working spaces but so much more.  There were a variety of spaces: open tables, enclosed rooms, a techie conference room and a kitchenette with snacks. Everywhere I looked I saw something intriguing.  Owen and I checked out innovative furniture, Luis and I got ideas that we want to bring back to the Rowland Steering committee and I found a quote that will go on my chalkboard door next week. Having colleagues and students to bounce ideas and really collaborate with is essential.  Throughout the first two days the conversations were as varied as our positions yet based on a common desire to create a school system that enables all students to learn and grow to their best potential.  Although we are fabulous individual educators, this trip has once again proven that our school is greater than the sum of its parts.