This past June, 4 faculty and administrators from Brehm Preparatory School and The Brehm Institute for Cognitive and Curricular Research participated in the first Education and Innovation Think Tank in Warrenton, VA. This event was organized by The Dyslexia Foundation as a way to establish, promote and foster greater collaboration between schools serve students with special needs.

Sessions, trips and conversations centered around real-world problems; but also were framed to provide participants with tools and ideas to identify core problems and start working to solve them.  Opening sessions were designed to get people talking to each other and learning how to solve problems.  The analogy of a Rubik’s cube was used.  If you look at the entire cube and set out to solve it, you will likely fail, or get lost before you start; however, if you look at addressing each individual cube, the task becomes much simpler.

One way to start breaking down problems is to change your frame of mind and create a space that fosters creativity and focus.   Active spaces help to engage students in the lessons and allow students to create their own learning spaces.  Steelcase provided the furniture for the conference so that participants could experience the benefits of an active learning space first hand.

“Active learning is where students construct meaning by making their own discoveries. They don’t just sit back and listen to a teacher lecture all the time,” says Aileen Strickland, Steelcase design researcher. “They’re more engaged in learning, frequently working in groups and interacting with peers. When students can move around, relationships are more dynamic, so furniture and space that supports a more active approach can help teachers and students adapt to these new methods.”

Another powerful session was the trip to a WeWork office.  The first morning of the event, participants traveled to WeWork co-office space at the DuPont Circle in Washington D.C.

“When we started WeWork in 2010, we wanted to build more than beautiful, shared office spaces. We wanted to build a community. A place you join as an individual, ‘me’, but where you become part of a greater ‘we’. A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.”

The final day and a half of the event focused on Design Thinking and building a plan to solve one issue at your school. A Design Thinking facilitator worked with all of the participating schools to lay the groundwork for everyone’s homework.  Innovation and problem solving requires action.  Schools have been tasked with completing their goals, even if the initial goal evolves during the Design Thinking process.

At the end of the event collaborative communication spaces were setup to keep everyone talking over the next several months so that the connections made during the event are not lost.  As a school we identified a core goal to improve communication at Brehm.  Building blocks of that project have already been laid and progress will be presented at the Strategic Planning Event this winter.