Research and Design Lab
The Upper Arlington High School Research and Design lab is a conceptual space to explore, prototype and design innovative approaches to teaching and learning. We began conceptualizing the lab during the 2015-2016 school year and due to a very generous donation from a local family and support from both the Upper Arlington Education Foundation and the Upper Arlington High School PTO, we have been able to invest time and resources into its development during the 2016-2017 school year.
RESEARCH AND DESIGN LAB BLOG
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Ideas Change the World
Ideas change the world.
“Of course,” we think when we hear it, “it’s always been that way, and it will always be that way.”
Up and down our head nods, and then we move on…
Like we do for so many other givens: food fuels us, water nourishes us, air keeps us alive.
But those words were bigger than their meaning this week at the Chicago Ideas Week festival. They were filled with empathy and context, structure and pretext, inflated with examples meant to transport us from beginning to end.
They were no longer one dimensional, facts on a page.
They were inflated, lifted from paper, delivered by lips and diffused through a room like smoke.
They couldn’t be ignored.
They took life in their truth, beating deep within us, letters lumped into substance, substance turning to missions, missions producing callings, and callings driving us to step forward and act.
“Ideas change the world,” they told us on banners, on programs, through vibrations bounding from microphones, through pictures and products, spaces and places, inside walls saturated with artwork and auditoriums booming with sound.
“Ideas change the world,” they showed us when we turned to our neighbor and invited them to dream, when we analyzed murals and scripted poetry, when Sarah Robb O’Hagen explained how her mistake inspired Gatorade to determine why their campaign failed, and that effort led them to honor who they, as a brand, really were, and in turn, created one of the most successful campaigns in the world. They showed us through the way David Korins explained collaborative creativity, how he works with others to identify the best ideas and make them real, in particular the way he was able to bring Hamilton’s set to life. They showed us through Adam Foss and the powerful narrative of how he came to fight against mass incarceration, and through Phyllis Lockett who figured out how to connect educators with technology and resources so they could determine the best way to personalize education.
“Ideas change the world,” they commissioned.
And we listened:
Four students and two teachers writing furiously in the dark not because we had a test, or an expectation, but because we had a dream.
A dream that started before we came, and has expanded since we left, a dream we are calling UA Idea Day.
Before we even set foot in a single session, art teacher, Donna Cornwell, UA+ED Program and Project Specialist Alice Finley, students Cindy, Gabrielle, Lily and Rachel, and I met with Rachel Graham, Director of (YOU)th Programming for Chicago Ideas Week (CIW). We shared with her our ideas, she gave us advice, and when we finished, she and her staff treated us like celebrities. Backing up every single value they proclaimed in the sessions, the CIW staff invited us to network, to question, to take risks, and to dream.
From listening to students present their case about why the wording for one of our sessions misled us into thinking they had a shuttle from the Loop to Argonne’s Lab and rewarding them with tickets to a different session because of their “composure, thoughtfulness and maturity,” to calling us over to meet the (YOU)th ambassadors so students could make connections, to welcoming us into the Collaborative Creativity session which had been previously sold out, the CIW staff made “the group from Columbus,” feel as if they were important, as if they were a special part of the CIW experience this year.
From session to session, our students were engaged. They asked smart questions and they offered new perspectives. Most of the sessions were attended by adults, so their voices were fresh and significant, and in the last session we went to at the Latino Cultural Arts Center at the University of Illinois Chicago, one of the participants, took note.
“I work in marketing,” he said after Gabrielle shared her response in a group discussion on how we could create a project utilizing our assets, “and you’re our target audience. But to us, you all are just numbers. Listening to you today, I can’t help but think about how we need to talk to you as people.”
This week was all about the significance of connection in pursuit of a better place, and we felt those connections again and again. We came to learn, but we weren’t expecting our presence to be so deeply infused in the experience. We came to get inspired, but we didn’t realize we had the power to inspire too.
But time and time again, we learned that through interactions with strangers.
Time and time again, we saw the power of conversation.
The power of opening and combining minds.
The power of the human spirit.
The power of ideas that very well might change the world.
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