Teaching for Transformation: Innovation at High Meadows

As I walk around our campus, I am constantly reminded of just how sophisticated our students are. This morning, I visited the kindergartners and first graders to tell them about our upcoming campus improvement projects. I anticipated that they would only be interested in the new Pony Barn and Animal Community. Though they certainly loved hearing about those, they had some other questions:

"Is carpool changing?"
"How will the grass be planted?"
"Did Ms. Major or Ms. Williams make that drawing of the barn? Because it looks pixelated."

Pixelated. This is not our parents' kindergarten! So how do we teach sophisticated kids in rapidly-changing times? Put simply, we teach them how to be innovative.

Innovation is expansive and dynamic. It requires creativity and analytical thought, integrating multiple disciplines to follow a central purpose. Innovative thinking, ultimately, is transformational thinking.


Though teachers at High Meadows have been engaged in teaching innovation for years, they have recently been given opportunities to re-frame innovation and expand upon its central concepts. In the articles below, you will read about some of the many fun, creative ways our teachers help students learn how to apply what they are learning to solve real-world problems. Enjoy!

Jay's signature
Jay Underwood
Head of School
Innovation is Everywhere!
Every day, we are bombarded with information about innovation. Companies tout how their innovative products will make our lives better. News sites offer countless stories about new technology and inventions. Businesses tout the importance of STEAM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) in schools. Clearly, innovation is important in our society. So, what does innovation look like in a school like High Meadows?
Since 1973, High Meadows has emphasized an innovative, inquiry-based, integrated educational approach that fosters love of learning, creativity, meaningful connections, and environmental responsibility. That approach continues to be valuable in preparing children to have the innovation skills needed for today's fast-changing environment. 
Students in a 2/3 class work on making a harmonica in a STEAM lab.
"Integrated learning through authentic experiences drives the High Meadows program
- an d is at the heart of STEAM-based innovation," said Margaret Jones , Associate Head of School and Lower Years Principal. "We define innovation as: 'The capacity for transformational thinking that leads to new ideas, methods, or practices.' It is born of the opportunity and motivation to combine and extend existing knowledge and skills through authentic experiences, deeper understanding, creative thinking, and a sense of purpose.

STEAM activities involve hands-on, first-person experiences.
STEAM activities are present throughout High Meadows via student-led exploration involving hands-on, first-person experiences focused on real-world problem s
olving. They include STEAM labs, Information and Technology Literacy classes, and Mini Courses,  to name a few

High Meadows art teachers Brenda Major and Lynn Williams create STEAM labs for Early and Elementary Years students. They look at the International Baccalaureate Programme Of Inquiry for each grade level through a STEAM lens, mining for opportunities to create a lab that serves as a model for how a STEAM lesson can look or be conducted in the classroom.
"We collaborate with classroom teachers and show them the opportunities we identify when looking at the possibilities from a different perspective," Major said. "We plan together, share resources, work alongside them or whatever is needed based on the teachers' level of comfort with the details of the lab."
Once a lab is conducted, it becomes part of the STEAM repertoire - a learning activity that can be repeated, tweaked, or reframed to support different learning goals. "We continually mine for and model different projects, ideas, connections, and materials that can be used to teach in an interdisciplinary way," Major said.

Information and Technology Literacy (ITL) Classes

K-1 students learn coding basics using Osmo.
ITL teachers Amanda Korell and Holly Berg are teaching Kindergarten - 5th grade students how to use a variety of technology tools they can apply in other classes. For example, the K-5 students studied coding with O zobot and Osmo, and the K/1st and 2nd/3rd students also coded using Beebot. In addition, 4th/5th grade students are learning Sphero basics and the Microsoft Office 365 suite. The 2/3 and 4/5 classes recently made photos using a green screen, while the 4/5 classes will also soon use it to plan and make videos.

Middle Years Mini Courses
In addition to taking English, math, social studies, science, and Spanish classes, sixth-eight grade students get to choose from a variety of electives called Mini Courses. 
These classes provide opportunities to further de velop an area of interest or encounter new subjects. T hey include STEAM-related areas such as Digital
Design and Productions, Intro to 3D p rinting, Metalsmithing, Photoshop Basics, 
and Sphero Challenge.

Middle Years students can choose from a variety of STEAM-related courses like metalsmithing

Grant Strengthens School's STEAM Program
How the school teaches innovation has been augmented by a $360,000 grant from the Goizueta Foundation.  In 2016, High Meadows received the grant in part to support a comprehensive STEAM initiative over three years. The money helps teachers explore theories and processes behind teaching innovation and see how they are being applied at other schools.
"The Goizueta grant helps us strengthen the principles of STEAM that flow naturally from our school's mission and see how we might enhance our current activites," Jones said. "This first year is one of learning for us. Our Innovation Leadership Team and teachers across grade levels are researching ways to create innovators and looked at STEAM best practices, Maker's Spaces, and Innovation Labs by visiting other schools.  Next year, we'll use that information as we talk with the rest of our faculty about how to augment our current STEAM offerings and materials. In the third year, we'll take the information we've gathered to guide us in determining how to best u se the new Innovation Lab and Commons building that will be ready in Fall 2019."

The grant also provides the school the opportunity to send teachers to conferences focused on innovation such as Project Zero at Harvard University. 

"It's an exciting time for both students and educators at High Meadows as we continue to equip students with the innovation skills and background they need to succeed in the 21st century," Jones said.
Dinosaurs, Codeapillars, and Frogs - Oh My!

What do dinosaurs, "codeapillars," and frogs have in 
4/5 students used a green screen to create pictures of themselves in fun situations.
common? They are fun ways that High Meadows te achers weave STEAM work and innovation in the classroom. Preschool students investigate the campus' rich outdoor settings and inquire about what they find - like frogs. Early and Elementary students explore coding with codeapillars and use green screens to create images of themselves in fun situations - like escaping a dinosaur! Middle Years students learn in hands-on creative ways about science, digital design and production, m etalsmithing, 3D printing, cartooning, and ceramics. Take a look:   
Beebot Twister, Code.org, and Green Screens
Kindergarten - fifth grade students have fun learning in Information and Technology Literacy (ITL) class. Teachers Amanda Korell and Holly Berg teach them how to use a variety of technology tools and apps which they apply in other classes and projects. 
K/1 and 2/3 students learned coding through games like Beebot Twister.
This fall, K/1st and 2nd/3rd grade students practiced coding by working with Beebots. They played games to learn how to program their bee, follow and enter a written code sequence, and estimate numbers and  types of movements needed to achieve a particular goal.
"There was lots of energy from the kids for coding and  robo tics," Kor ell said. "We played 'Beebot Twister' where they programmed their bee to land on a certain color. They also worked together in the 'Beebot Flower Game' to code their bee to land on as many flowers around the lab floor as they could."
K/1 and 2/3 students used Codeapillars to learn about coding.
K/1 students also used Ozobot, Osmo Coding Jam, Codeapillar,  and Code.org to further explore coding, and 2/3 and 4/5 classes used apps to create avatars and c raft music. 

In addition, 4/ 5 students learned how to use a green screen. They planned out their picture, found props o r images to bring it to life, and reflected on how the end result compared to their plan. Check out the students' amazing creations
4/5 students planned their projects.
Explaining the Elements Via Cereal Boxes and Product Ads
Middle Years Science Teacher Andy Stephens  helps students learn about the elements in the periodic table in creative ways. Two years ago, students created cereal boxes that detailed information about their element. Last year, students created product commercials. Each student had their own ad and could also work together if someone needed help. This year, students created movie trailers. "They wrote a proposal about the element they wished to study, why they were interested in it, and outlined the project they were proposing to do," Stephens said. "There were lots of cool ideas ranging from super heroes to monsters to love stories." Check out some of the students' work: Movie Trailer 1, Movie Trailer 2, Element Commercial

Center for Progressive Learning Supports Innovation Programming for Parents and Professionals

Driving a culture of innovation does n't stop with the school's STEAM offerings to students. The High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning seeks programming  opportu nities to support learning about innovation.
"We have excellent programs coming up that wi ll give parents and professionals the opportunity to learn about the importance  of i nnovation and how to create learning environments that support it," said  Kate McElvaney , Director of Educational Advancement. "On March 15, we'll show the film Most Likely to Succeed. It's a great look at the importance of  te aching i nnovation so our children are prepared for the 21st century." 
The Center also is hosting a workshop on November 8 with Alan November, an international leader in education technology. Check out some of his  articles about the importance of technology and education today, and learn about  programs and workshops offered by the  Center for Progressive Learning

Resources To Learn More About Innovation Education
Want to learn more the importance of fostering innovation in today's students and some ways to do it? Check out these excellent articles and resources: 

Essential Skills

Eighth Grader Elizabeth Li Has Artwork Displayed in  Exhibit at Georgia State Capitol

Elizabeth Li's artwork is featured in the Capitol Art Exhibit, part of Youth Art Month in Georgia. 
On Feb. 23, High Meadows Eighth Grader Elizabeth Li, her family, and Art Teacher Lynn Williams had the honor of attending a reception at the state capitol honoring students with artwork entered in the Capitol Art Exhibit. The exhibit is the premier event of Youth Art Month and is sponsored by the Georgia Art Education Association and the Office of the Secretary of State. It shares with legislators and the public the exceptional, creative ability of Georgia's students. 
Li's painting is titled " Shades of Winter " and is a mixed media work, including charcoal, acrylic, colored pencil, and watercolor . She painted it as part of her Drawing and Painting Mini Course at High Meadows. 

At the reception, Li and her family heard presentations by Brian Kemp, Secretary of State, and Richard Woods, Georgia State School Superintendent. They also met their House Representative, Betty Price. Woods has been instrumental in bringing art to the forefront of educational curriculum in Georgia. In fact, in June 2017, the State Board of Education approved new standards for Media Arts, Theatre Arts, and Visual Arts that Woods championed. At that time, he said: "The arts are a critical component of a well-rounded K-12 education, and I appreciate all of the educators, parents, and community members who came together to create these standards that enhance the fine arts instruction our students receive."

Two Teachers Accepted to Prestigious Workshop Series

Fourth/Fifth Grade Teacher Melissa Casorio and Middle Years teacher Andy Stephens were recently accepted to attend the National Institute of the Progressive Education Network's (NIPEN) six-day workshop series. NIPEN provides teachers an opportunity to learn from other educators and experts in the field. The workshop series is limited to 24 participants to keep the experience focused and personal and is presented in two parts: three days at Wildwood School in Los Angeles in January, and three days at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago in April. The program explores the historical context, ideals, and pedagogy of the Progressive Education movement, which aligns with High Meadows' objective of inspiring both teachers and students to be globally aware, lifelong learners. "We are so proud to invest in our teachers, who in turn guide our students, with high-caliber continuing education programs such as NIPEN," says Jay Underwood, head of school for High Meadows. "Andy and Melissa are highly dedicated teachers who will experience new ways of teaching and responding to the developmental needs of our students."
Upcoming Events
Join Us for 'A Night on Broadway!'

High Meadows is hosting its biennial gala on Saturday, April 28
, and we'd love to have you join us! The fun starts at 7:00 p.m. and includes a silent and live auction, dinner, drinks, dancing, and more! This fun evening offers a great way to get to know current and past High Meadows parents and teachers. Tickets will be available for purchase soon.   

We Need Auction Items!
We rely on donations from the community to auction off during the event!  Do you network with businesses that would be willing to donate an item, service, or experience? Do you frequent an establishment and feel comfortable asking them for a donation? Below are a few documents that you can print and take with as you approach business owners with a request for an auction item. All donations are tax deductible.

Please contact Development Manager  Angela Lockard with questions. 
Important Admission Dates for 2018-19 Applicants
While the preferred application deadline for the 2018-19 school year has now passed, High Meadows will continue to accept applications through the spring. Contact Laura Nicholson to learn about current space availability and the application process at lnicholson@highmeadows.org.
  • MARCH 1, 2018: 2017 Tax Information Deadline for Financial Aid Applicants
  • MARCH 31, 2018: Common Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools (AAAIS) Admission Notification Date
  • APRIL 13, 2018: AAAIS Response Deadline
Join Us for the Early Years Festival on March 10

Have friends with young children exploring school options for next year? Invite them to the Early Years Festival, Saturday, March 10 from 12-3 p.m. There's no better way to get a feel for the High Meadows community than by attending our Early Years Festival.
This event is full of wonder and whimsy and gives toddlers and young children the chance to experience fun and activities reflective of High Meadows School's focus on learning through play, connection to nature, and community connection.  Bring a friend, bring a neighbor, bring your sense of wonder!

The High Meadows community celebrates and perpetuates each individual's quest for knowledge and skill, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural environment. We empower each to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen.

(770) 993-2940 | www.highmeadows.org
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