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Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation

08 Nov 2018

Using StrengthsFinder to discover the potential in our students (and employees)

One of my very favorite things about working with students is watching them come to understand how unique they are and how unique they can become. For nearly 5 years, I have taught the Transformational Leadership class at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta, and one of the core pieces of the curriculum is to discover and harness that which makes our students unique: their strengths. The tool we use with our students is StrengthsQuest, the Gallup StrengthsFinder test. The 30-minute […]

25 Oct 2018

Starting with a Prototype

At the center of every design thinking challenge are empathy and an authentic user.  So what happens when you jump right into prototyping to solve a problem?  How do you know if you’re solving for the right problem? At the beginning of the school year, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School did just that –  started with a prototype for “Family Style Lunch” and then stood back, gained some empathy, iterated, and plowed ahead. Trying to Solve a Problem Lunchtime was really […]

15 Sep 2018

Establishing Student Agency

How to Recognize Roles, Set Expectations, and Let Go in Inquiry-Based Learning In October of 2017, the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA approached a team of Innovation Diploma* (iD) students to curate and design an interactive exhibit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Over the next eight months, I watched this team grow into empathetic storytellers who created a truly unique experience looking at current activism through the lens of […]

29 Aug 2018

Discovering your creative identity.

Your creative identity can be a powerful milestone in your path to becoming a better maker and lead you to discover purpose in the things you make.   How might you find your own creative identity? We pose this question in the second “lap” of our online course (it’s free, this isn’t a sales pitch – check it all out here) and it is an important one that can always use a little more substance. Why? Well, simply put, discovering […]

19 Aug 2018

Eight Strategies for Building a Feedback-Rich Culture

I spent a good part of this summer at our lake house in Wisconsin. When we first arrived, my two kids, 5 and 7 ran right to their secret hideout they built the previous year. They couldn’t believe their teepee was still standing, and yet they were not too happy to see some of the flooring needed repair. Immediately they got to work collecting materials and rebuilding their hideout. After about an hour of work, they decided they needed to […]

02 Aug 2018

Learning from TODAY

One of the great blessings of being a teacher is the opportunity to rest, reflect and recharge during the summer. There is time to build relationships with others and make use of good “theta wave” time to plan for the next school year. There is even enough time for a guilty pleasure or two. One of mine is drinking too much coffee and spending a whole morning enjoying the Today Show every now and then. These days, however, I can […]

20 Jul 2018

A Summer of Moments

In early June we were on a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee standing under a small set of intertwined trees for covering at it poured on us. With rain jacket hoods up, hats and bags wet, and feet muddy, my colleague Brad Droke yells out to T.J. Edwards and me over the pouring rain, “THIS is a MOMENT!” We laugh for a while and trudge on, but he was absolutely right. Little did we know that the […]

16 Jul 2018

Experiential Learning – Being Off-Grid for 30 Days

“Stop!, don’t come down yet,” someone yelled from below the pass between two peaks in the Beartooth wilderness in Montana. There was an accident below us and my group of 5 wasn’t able to come down until we knew more about the situation. I was one of 12 students with 3 guides off-grid for 30 days on a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership Schools) course. The course was designed for outdoor educators and included Wilderness First Responder certification. I wasn’t aware of […]

17 Jun 2018

Solving Problems – Life on the Crag as Natural Learning

When someone says “learning in school does not match real-life learning,” what do you think they mean? Isn’t a student’s experience in school part of their real life? Of course it is, but I think this is what the proverbial someone means – the structures of learning in school don’t closely enough match the structures of learning outside the parameters of typical school. To explore this idea in more detail, I often think of something specific that my older son […]

17 Apr 2018

HMW curate a museum that evokes empathy about social justice?

Blog post by Team 3, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School   We start with questions here at Mount Vernon…. How might we curate a museum that evokes empathy around social justice? Before beginning our research around social justice, our driving question led us to investigate museums and how they are created. We decided to take an expedition to Fernbank Museum of Natural History so that students could examine different types of exhibits as well as elements of museums including lighting, sound, […]

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