Creativity is second nature to us when we are young and ideas come at a fast and furious pace. In fact, young children routinely do much better on tests of creativity than high school children or adults do. Their minds are open to new possibilities and they are not shy about their ideas, no matter how silly or far-fetched. In the first grade classroom it’s easy to make those ideas into projects. Construction paper, scissors, glue, pipe cleaners and a little paint are all that are required to bring those ideas to life. For older students the tools needed to bring ideas into the world can be a bit more specialized and space intensive, making it hard for students to realize their vision. Building something out of wood requires a whole different level of technology than pipe cleaners. Students may be able to take a tech or design class, but that doesn’t help them for their English or science projects, so they often get stuck making the same dioramas or hand drawn posters; not always the most engaging end result of a great idea.
The Idea Behind IDEApath
At Noble Academy we’ve come up with a solution to this problem. We want every student in our school to have the opportunity to create really sophisticated projects; to learn the process of creating and designing as well as learn the process of learning and test taking. This alternate path to show their understanding of a subject is what we call the IDEApath.
The IDEApath incorporates four distinct but connected spaces that include a variety of tools:
Our IdeaLab is a space for design thinking and project planning. Students can write on the whiteboard wall, put post-its on the wall, cast their computer screen to do research, watch videos or collaborate on searches.
The MakerSpace has a variety of low and high tech tools for making objects. Two 3D printers, a laser cutter, hand and power tools, lots of cardboard, legos and other building toys, and other random materials can be used to make models, prototypes or functional objects.
The DesignStudio has computers with a variety of software and resources that are more powerful than the typical student laptop or chromebook. Students can create 3D models, poster designs and layouts, website design or video editing. Our large format printer can make posters really stand out.
The RecordingBooth features a green screen, animation booth and audio recording equipment for recording still photos, video and audio for use in a variety of recorded creations.
These four areas work together for truly flexible projects. Students can plan a video shot by shot in the IdeaLab, make props in the MakerSpace, film their scenes in front of the RecordingBooth green screen and edit their video together in the DesignStudio.
IDEApath In Action
Our high school IDEApath class allows students to design and pursue their own interests by exploring all of the tools available. Students work on their ideas from the ground up, doing research on methods and materials, experimenting, making mistakes and ultimately fighting their way to completed projects. Currently students in this class are working on designing and building custom longboards, 3D printing a transformer, building virtual reality goggles and making a giant stencil for painting the athletic field.
Our fourth through eighth grade students experience the IDEApath as one of their specialist rotations. These six week experiences allow groups of students to work together to design collaborative projects from planning to completion. Each project is based on the interests of the group as a whole and allow each student to explore a process or technology that appeals to them.
Every student in every class can have access to the IDEApath to work on projects in their subject matter classes. Much like the school library, students (and teachers) don’t need to be experts in the various tools in the IDEApath, they simply need to come with an idea of what they want to create and they can get help developing it into a project and executing it. Along the way students gain exposure to the options available and can pursue their interests during free time and after school.
Making Ideas Into Things And Things Into Ideas
The IDEApath is, in fact, a part of our school library for this very reason. A library is a resource for every student, and it is filled with ideas of all types. With the IDEApath as a resource, students can now make their ideas into real things that can be shared. Every completed IDEApath project is documented and a copy is put back into the library to help inspire the next student who comes to us with an idea they would like to see become a reality.
Matt Zigler is the Creative Director at Noble Academy