If The Kids Can Do It, So Can You!

So in a follow up to my post yesterday about giving people permission to express themselves, Daniel Pink posted today about a teacher who applied the idea of FedEx Day to instructing his sixth grade classroom. The teacher in question, Josh Stumpenhorst, called the effort “Innovation Day” and created an environment to let his students direct their learning for the day.

There was some prep work involved in getting the students focused and prepared for what they were going to do, of course. On the whole, it was pretty dang successful and the kids really got invested in the process. Among the projects the kids undertook were:

We had a student:

• Writing and performing his own guitar solo
• Creating a model out of wood of the Sears Tower
• Writing her own historical fiction short story
• Creating a Rube Goldberg machine
• Designing and creating a replica suit of Roman Armor (out of tinfoil and cardboard)
• Creating a how-to tutorial on baking a cake
• Painting a still life on canvas of a nature scene
• Writing and performing a one-man comedy act
• Researching and presenting on the concentration camps of the Holocaust
• Creating a video highlight reel of basketball moves and plays
• Building a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
• Writing a biography of his favorite teacher Mr. Stumpenhorst (<—–ok, I made this one up!)
• Creating a video documentary of Innovative Day
• Building a model of Big Ben
• Choreographing and performing a dance
• Researching Walt Disney and creating a model of the Epcot Center
• Creating a model of numerous World War II battles
• Building a model of the Eiffel Tower
• Researching and creating countless Power Points, posters, and Photo Stories

I wondered yesterday how an experience that cultivated a sense of permission to express oneself might be designed for adults. I think this project might be a good basis to start from, especially since there was a lot of natural collaboration emerging. Granted, these kids and teacher already had an existing daily relationship with each other in which there was a certain level of structure and trust. The same environment may not exist for an arts organization and a constituency that spends the majority of its day in school or at work. It might take some time and effort to get to this point–if you wanted to get to this point at all. A project that evolves in an entirely different direction based on the dynamics of the community is eminently possible.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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