Sheila Holley’s third-grade students entered the room, found their seats and in typical fashion, looked to their teacher for instruction—but it wasn’t a typical day. One day each month at Thalia Elementary School is Innovation Day. The volume level of the class got louder as students began to get more and more excited about what the day will bring.
“Today, we will be planning, creating and testing our own three-dimensional mazes,” said Holley.
The activity began with students watching a video on Google Classroom that demonstrated how to make a maze. During their morning meeting, Holley asked her students what they saw in the video that they will need to complete this project in class. Together, students listed all the necessary materials their team will need to build their own maze.
“Allowing them to collaborate on this assignment and telling them what to expect when working with a team focuses the social-emotional piece while also keeping in line with the curriculum,” said Holley. “Innovation Day is my favorite because of this.”
Dr. Crystal Wilkerson brought Innovation Day to Thalia when she became principal two years ago after being inspired by previous school administrators and educative literature.
“Changing one’s mindset isn’t easy, so I thought if we had one day a month where teachers can really think differently and creatively, take risks and also stay aligned with the curriculum – a day that the students are engaged and the teachers are excited about teaching – it would really make a difference,” said Wilkerson.
For fifth-grader Eleanor Strader, it’s a day of enjoyment.
“All day you don’t feel like you’re learning at all. You’re just having fun. But, at the end of the day your teacher gives you a slip that tells you all the areas that you learned that day and you’re like, ‘Wow, I love Innovation Day,’” said Strader.
One thing that Wilkerson wants both students and teachers to learn from this day is failure is not a conclusion, but rather a new beginning.
“When you fail, fail forward,” said Wilkerson. “Growth comes from failing.”
Wilkerson believes that students feel encouraged to take risks and not fear failure, but instead see it as necessary to success.
“When our teachers take creative risks with their students, they’re not simply telling them to take creative risks,” said Wilkerson. “They are leading the way by taking risks themselves.”
While Thalia dedicates a day each month to celebrate creative thinking, and risk-taking, Wilkerson hopes teachers take these lessons into their classrooms every day.