Like many of us in schools, trying to organise a social event at this time of the term is a difficult thing! It’s not only the end of term but graduation time for Yr 12 – and my eldest son is amongst the throng! As our school is in a semi-rural area on the fringe of Sydney, the capacity to invite folk was a little limited by the timing and our location. Having said that, I work in a Pre-K – 12 school that is independent, so we are completely self-sufficient, and every task that has to be fulfilled within the school is completed by someone employed by the school. We have not only teachers, teacher aides and admin support, but a full accounts, team, builders, designers, international recruiting agents and advertising folk all ready and waiting to be drawn on.
Despite the fact that I ended up having to put our function on the last day of school, as an afternoon “tea” (let me just say advertising that there will be “celebratory consumables” goes a long way in a school!), we had quote good support – 13 people through joined me all up from across the schooling community. Not bad in week where there’s 3 after-hours functions! I also had about 13 responses from people who could not make it, but were very supportive of the idea and keen to be involved in future events. The school is full of passionate people, who are ripe for more creative involvement in decision-making!
The goal was to start the conversation about a specific space in the high school, known as the “fishbowl”. The room is so named as it sits between two classes, and has windows for supervision. Up until 2 months ago there were a small number of desktop computers (about 8) that students could use. But with the introduction of a 1:1 laptop program, and the lease running out on the desktops, it’s now an unused space, mainly used for storing old junk and with the remnants of the laptop stands.
Attendees were invited to enter through the main door and imagine the space as if they were students – what did they see, what did the space say about our school about learning? We sat and chatted for a while about this, and then moved into one of the rooms next door and using the Stanford’s d-school “How might we” model, and brainstormed a range of ways we could use the room creatively for learning.
As we nibbled and talked through the possibilities, I introduced the ideas of creative culture, of design thinking and Browns’ concept of human-centred design and crucially for us – doing more with less! How we could transform the room with little financial input from the school? Ideas about chalkboard paint (someone had some left over), a weekend working bee, the power of paint to change a mood, and then some more wide-ranging and more extravagant ideas were all discussed.
Although I had prepared a powerpoint to show people that outlined design thinking and had images of a range of innovate learning spaces, I only talked through the first few slides, then left it running throughout the afternoon so that it didn’t dominate the discussion. I was very aware of turning the final Friday of term – and hopefully the first in a series of such events – into a lecture! One of the teachers also asked if students had been involved – a great question, as one of the key threads through our discussion had been collaborating and including a wide range of voices in innovation. I had considered asking students to attend, but it would have restricted the “consumables’ allowed! It will happen early next term – they will be plied with age=-appropriate nibblies!!
One of the key themes that recurred throughout our meeting was the idea of making it a creative space for staff – the retreat room that all sorts of people could come to and chat – and this largely came out of the discussion on creative culture.
Although the group ended up being less diverse than I would have liked, I was very excited by the beginnings of conversations within my school that demonstrated the capacity to creatively give voice to staff. It was an opportunity to engage people directly with the small but significant ways we can design education to be more collaborative and more engaging. It was a great time, and especially significant for my school as there’s been a lot of change of the last 2 years, and the sense of community has been slightly fractured. It was a real first to create a sense of a “creative voice” in the school, and to create a positive vibe around learning and innovation.
My plan for next time is to utilise social media – I didn’t have the time nor space to push for a broader invitation this time, but having seen the success of other people’s events who did so, will definitely do this! It will always be hard considering where my school is to get people to come to it, but next time I’m going to be braver and invest more into stepping outside the “schoolzone.”
I have also commented on –