I recently attended an outdoor social gathering where I had the opportunity to meet several new acquaintances. When the inevitable question about careers was raised, I mentioned that I am the Director of Innovation and Changemaking at Brookwood. This was unfailingly met with raised eyebrows and the first of several clarifying questions: “What does that mean?” And each time I explained and described the ins and outs, I realized just how unique this program is – and how unfamiliar such a framework is in an Early Childhood -8th grade school setting. Many times, the response was, “I wish I had something like that when I was in school!” And more than one person wondered why their children’s school didn’t seem to offer a similar program. At the end of the evening, I walked back to my car, reflecting on how fortunate I am to be helping direct such an essential and powerful part of the Brookwood experience.
At its core, Brookwood’s Changemaking program is designed to empower students to build essential skills and habits of mind through authentic and engaging learning experiences that prioritize agency, inquiry, and connection. We utilize a range of learning models that help us develop a greater sense of empathy, hone our approaches to creative work, foster communities of feedback, and root ourselves in persistent iterative effort. With access to an incredible array of “high tech” tools (robotics, drones, 3D printers, laser cutters, VR, MacBooks, iPads, etc), “low tech” tools (hot glue, craft sticks, cardboard, duct tape, etc) and a fully-equipped woodshop, our students are able to dive into the deep end of creative problem solving. Whether they have a personal passion, a class assignment, or are engaged in an Inquiry Project, students have the opportunity to leverage the tools, space, and faculty expertise to bring their ideas to life.
Whether they have a personal passion, a class assignment, or are engaged in an Inquiry Project, students have the opportunity to leverage the tools, space, and faculty expertise to bring their ideas to life.
Many schools have a makerspace. Sometimes they are part of the library, sometimes they are provided their own space. Only rarely are they thoughtfully and deliberately built into the curriculum. Having been involved in “maker education” for over a decade, I can say that Brookwood’s Changemaker program is remarkable, not only for its resources and tools, but for its focus on empowering students to become creative problem solvers in the service of others.
Over the years, Brookwood has fostered powerful relationships with local organizations, museums, and assisted living facilities, as well as partnerships with schools from all over the globe. 3D printers are used to create braille signage for the visually impaired, laser cutters are employed to design and fabricate custom bracelets engraved with each student’s “one word” of personal focus, and robots are constructed and programmed to help address environmental pollution. There is a reason it’s called the Changemaking Program – we seek to use the skills and tools we’ve learned to help make positive change in our communities.
Under Jon’s leadership, we are excited to be prioritizing Changemaking and working to build it even more deeply into the curriculum, empowering our students to grow into exceptional scholars ready to explore ideas with confidence and creativity.
Looking ahead, we have big plans for the future of Brookwood’s Changemaking program. Starting this summer, I will be working with the Academic Leadership team and faculty to review our EC-8 curriculum and identify opportunities for cross-disciplinary projects that focus on authentic problem solving. With new investments in tools, space, and materials, we are excited to broaden our offerings to include digital fabrication using a CNC router, industrial-sized laser cutting, and a greater focus on computer science and digital art. Under Jon’s leadership, we are excited to be prioritizing Changemaking and working to build it even more deeply into the curriculum, empowering our students to grow into exceptional scholars ready to explore ideas with confidence and creativity.