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Bringing Innovation to High School

December 22, 2014   

Do high schools today provide opportunities for students to innovate? This was the question that 3 high school science teachers in our “Creating Innovators” grant project kept asking themselves as they were reading Tony Wagner’s book Creating Innovators during our project’s book study.  It seemed apparent that very few of the innovators described in the book attributed any of their innovative nature to teachers or mentors in their high school.  Upon further reflection, these teachers, Kristi Follett, Heather Wendt and Niki Juhl realized that providing opportunities for innovation while still meeting content requirements and within the current school structure and time constraints is next to impossible, so they set out to do something about it.

In researching examples of innovation in the Colorado Springs area, they learned about a unique program at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs:  the world’s only Bachelor of Innovation Degree Program.  This program offers Bachelor of Innovation degrees in six different majors:  Business, Computer Science, Computer Security, Electrical Engineering, Game Design and Development and Inclusive Early Childhood Education. No matter which area students major in, all students in the program must complete 27 credit hours of the Innovation Core courses, to include courses in entrepreneurship, the innovative process, business and intellectual property law, technical writing, proposals & presentations, and innovation teams, to include analyze, report, research, execute, design, lead, and strategy.  Students in this program work with real clients, write grants, design programs, and solve real-world problems.

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things. – Theodore Levitt

Kristi, Heather & Niki reached out to the BI program via the visionary founder, Dr. Terry Boult, and Co-Director of of Strategic Alliances, Dr. Colleen Stiles.  After multiple conversations, a true collaborative partnership emerged.  One of the UCCS BI Innovative Teams classes adopted these 3 science teachers as a client.  The problem they were trying to solve? How to bring RHS Innovatorsinnovative learning opportunities to high school science classes. The result?  The UCCS students worked with Kristi, Heather and Niki to design an elective science course, I.D.E.A.S. – “Innovative Design in Educational Alliances for STEM.”  The program is rooted in standards for Science, English, and Math, but also addresses all parts of innovation: funding, teams, process, and protection of ideas – and 21st century skills. Essentially, high school students will be mentored by UCCS BI students and participate on innovative teams applying science knowledge to solve real world problems for clients. The BI students are currently seeking funding for the program, and are prepared to assist when it comes time to request the new course before the school board. These BI students are highly motivated to make this happen, being recent high school graduates themselves.  They recognize the need to create more engaging and authentic learning experiences for high school students.

To read more about Kristi, Heather, and Niki’s innovative adventures, visit their blog, Innovation Adventures, and follow them on Twitter:  @follett_kristi, @heathernov8 , @juhlniki