By Anna Rozzi, Director of Inquiry and Innovation
Innovation means many things to many people. A quick Google search will elicit millions of definitions, resources and perspectives from experts on the scope, purpose, and value of innovation. But, in the spirit of inquiry, I find myself underwhelmed with the searchable answers, and more intrigued and inspired by the beautiful questions being asked and definitions offered every day by the innovators that fill our campus: The Students.
From Lower School to Middle School to Upper School, students are empowered to explore and wonder in order to deepen their learning and make meaning, and faculty are eager to make space for this innovative thinking in the classroom. But it all certainly does beg the question: What is innovation? And how do we do it? And what does it look like at OES?
The EC3 Design Center - named for The OES Essential Competencies Explore, Connect, Create, and Commit - is just one example of how we extend and bring to life these innovative ideas and questions outside of the classroom environment. There has been exciting work done by the OES community over the last two years to set the stage for EC3 programming, and I feel grateful to have the chance to build from such a strong, collaborative foundation. In EC3 we partner with teachers, students, parents, alumni, and community leaders to build a space where everyone can explore and extend their classroom experiences, develop innovative approaches to our work together, and model continual learning and growth. We are dedicated to bringing the OES mission to life and to make it visible - and because of this, the space and team are rooted in a commitment to student leadership and inquiry, creativity, and processes that encourage design and iteration.
Walking through EC3 the walls are covered in Project X questions from the current 8th grade, storyboard drafts from the Senior class’ Literary Journalism projects stretch the length of rooms, cardboard prototypes to support earthquake safety strategies are in various stages of design, students workshopping their independent fashion line consider the drape of different fabrics, 2nd graders collaborate and empathize to construct animal shelters, engineering students mentor each other as they fabricate digital clocks, and the vocal stylings of an advisory ring out in the recording studio. So: What is innovation? And how do we do it? And what does it look like at OES? After just a short walk through the studio spaces in EC3, I would say that innovation is the collective process of wondering, creating and transforming ideas into new directions - new questions that need exploring. We do this work together - as a community of learners - and it looks like every child that has ever held a pair of scissors and said “I’m not sure what I’m going to build...yet…” And that is a definition we can’t Google.