Educating for Innovation

Innovation is embedded throughout the curriculum at Jacksonville Country Day School. The faculty and the administrative team are constantly looking at innovative ways to teach students. 
Makerspaces help engage students in creative problem solving through hands-on design and building. Cristina Knodel, a Technology Specialist at JCDS, caught the makerspace spark at a Future of Education Technology Conference workshop several years ago, and her passion was contagious.
Studies have shown that students who participate in innovation activities demonstrate heightened curiosity, creativity, and motivation.
Once Ms. Knodel got other teachers excited about the idea, together they convinced the administrative team of the benefits of a makerspace for students. The teachers wanted to help students solve real problems that could help people and other living things. The science lab was then transformed to incorporate a makerspace and renamed the Shark Lab.
Prior to this school year, the teachers collaborated on a pivot of the science curriculum to make full use of the makerspace. The resulting makerspace unit is a two-month long project-based learning immersive educational experience for 5th and 6th grade.
Ms. Knodel worked with Science/Technology Integration Specialist, Shannon Johnson, who was named an Innovator in Education by the Jacksonville Business Journal in May, and Library Specialist, Carole Senn, on this transformation of the science curriculum. In the makerspace, students learn problem-solving, teamwork, and also how to use tools, including saws, power sanders, hammers, screw guns, sewing machines, 3D printers, and robotics. Students are presented with a real-world problem and have to come up with their own approaches to solving the problem using the engineering design process and tools they have in the makerspace.
“This is very hands-on and student directed,” Ms. Johnson said. “We wanted kids to create things they are passionate about, and that serve the community. We also wanted them to have choices in the tools or workstations they use so they feel a sense of ownership.”
 “We get a lot of support from the administrative team, they let us modify the schedule, transform the science lab and tech studio, and provide funding,” Ms. Johnson said.
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Located In Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Country Day School is a private school for Pre-K 3 through 6th grade. JCDS prepares students for a healthy and productive lifetime of intellectual exploration, character development, and social responsibility.