I wanted to share a brief story from the 2013 Student Innovation Exposition. The Expo brings together over 2,000 students, parents, teachers, judges, and community members. I have the distinct pleasure of hosting the event. Near the end of the day a teacher from an urban high school approached me and asked if she could speak to me privately for a minute. A bit nervous, not knowing what she was going to ask, I agreed, and we moved to a quiet corner of the tradeshow hall. She started telling me that her students had really not done a good job preparing for the event and that several of the students were identified as Special Education. Then she started to cry. She said the judges had been so supportive of her students, they gave them meaningful feedback, asked questions, and complimented them on their work, even though the students knew it wasn’t the best or of the highest quality. The students felt VALUED. And what can be more motivating than that.
If we really want students engaged, they must find value in the process. That engagement undoubtedly leads to higher achievement. As another teacher put it – the event is unique – it allows students to really be challenged by academic content, it encourages them to be extremely creative, they must collaborate and rely on each other, but most important, it allows them to be kids at the same time.
I couldn’t ask for a better assessment of the program.