The Westport Public Schools want students to think creatively and innovatively; to approach problems in ways no one else conceives of. That’s an important part of education — and crucial for success in the 21st century.
To do that, teachers must model that type of thinking.
And to give everyone extra encouragement, the district is putting its money where its mouth is.
It’s not a new concept — districts like Wilton, Trumbull, Chappaqua and Scarsdale — have similar funds. But they’re usually run by third parties, such as foundations.
But, according to director of elementary education Julie Droller and technology director Natalie Carrignan, the Westport district wanted to select the best ideas itself. Board of Education member Mark Mathias was an early proponent of the fund. Superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer was also a strong advocate.
“We’re looking for solutions to problems that we otherwise would not have the equipment, time or resources for,” Droller says. “We know there are lots of great ideas out there.”
Just a couple of weeks after the fund was created, applications are pouring in.
Proposals include new ways of using technology, novel activities and requests for physical devices.
One example: enhancement to the middle school STEM curriculum by using drones and coding software to solve real-world challenges.
Another: Teachers using technology to help them reflect on how they’re doing in the classroom. It’s similar, Carrignan says, to coaches who use game film to analyze performances.
The Innovation Fund is available to anyone in the district. One 3rd grade parent asked for more information, for her child.
A committee meets this week to review the first batch of requests. To learn more, click here.