What happens when you gather 15 teachers from 3 different divisions, add in 3 principals, and mix with 3 design thinkers? 

That would be the LREI Innovation Institute.

By Monica Snellings

Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School, otherwise known as, LREI reached out to Inquiring Minds to facilitate a workshop for them. Typically each summer LREI teachers can present a proposal for a challenge they will explore over the summer and come fall—a new approach, a project or a lesson would emerge. 

This year though they asked themselves—What if we brought teachers together to collaborate?

What if, instead of working in isolation, our teachers could come together across disciplines and schools (LREI has a lower school, middle school and a high school, housed in two different facilitates, blocks apart in Manhattan) and work together to look at a big issue, define a challenge for each school, and design new ways forward.

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It's about time

When asked what the most pressing issue LREI teachers faced—it was time, of course. So that's what Inquiring Minds and Playlab came together to help them explore using the design thinking process. 

Over the 4+ days of the workshop each division, as well as, the principals group went from lots of big ideas, filtered down to specifics, iterated on the ideas, and then presented plans to bring their projects to life.

The goals for the workshop were twofold: One, create a shared experience through collaboration to more deeply connect the LREI community. And two, demonstrate the process of design thinking.

Here's what the teachers had to say about the experience:

  • The design process is very useful for my own teaching.
  • It helped me to think more clearly and communicate better.
  • Working collaboratively I learned a great deal about myself as a learner.
  • The most valuable takeaway for me personally was getting to work with colleagues I barely knew, getting to see them take risks and to take risks in front of them.
  • That like our students, we can take risks to move our work forward. The design thinking approach pushes us toward high frequency and low amplitude change efforts. It is a cultural shift and much needed for us to move towards fast prototyping and away from too much talk about process.

Inquiring Minds, Playlab and LREI were all inspired by the outcome. Our Inquiring Minds will be checking in with the groups to see where their ideas go. And we are all thinking about the experience and looking forward to considering how might we iterate and improve upon the next Innovation Institute!  

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AuthorMonica Snellings