Educator Innovator’s program of Innovation Challenges supports great educators who are working to create and spread creative and connected learning opportunities for young people. Our current challenge is part of LRNG Innovators, an effort originally launched through a partnership between John Legend's Show Me Campaign and the National Writing Project. As of February 2017: Announcing the 2017 LRNG Innovators Challenge: Spark an Interest; Ignite a Passion

The 2015 LRNG Innovators Challenge

In 2014, the LRNG Innovators Challenge posed the question: What if learning had no walls, no bells? Teams of educators developed inspiring proposals to expand the time and space young people have for interest-driven learning in schools.

LRNG Innovators is challenging teachers themselves to reach beyond the schoolhouse door to develop partnerships and programs that connect in-school and out-of-school learning and create opportunities for young people to follow their interests and do ambitious work. With support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, LRNG Innovators is investing in teams of teachers committed to exploring how learning experiences can move fluidly and coherently across the spheres of formal and informal learning.

Connected Learning research and practice has demonstrated that all young people can achieve and learn when given opportunities to follow their interests, support from peers and mentors, and time and space to create work that is meaningful to them. Out of school programs and community institutions like libraries and museums provide rich learning opportunities that young people value, but in many cases these opportunities are disconnected from students’ school experiences. Conversely, educators working outside of school could benefit from the opportunities schools offer to work with young people in deeper and more sustained ways. In the gap between formal and informal learning, we may well be missing key opportunities to support youth in creating connections and being active agents in their learning.

The 2015 LRNG Innovation Challenge projects are described below:

Sitka Story Lab Sitka Story Lab
Island Institute and the Sitka School District, Sitka, AK
Story Lab is a program of the Island Institute, a Sitka-based organization which works to generate and share ideas, skills, and expressions to empower resilient coastal communities. Building on the Sitka Story Lab’s work encouraging creative expression among young Alaskans, ages 7-19, this project will help to formalize the connection between Story Lab and the schools and build capacity for programs centered on storytelling, creative writing, and imaginative play. Sitka Story Lab’s goal is to support youth to become passionate, creative adults, eager to express themselves and to turn their dreams into action. Read More ›

Greetings from East LA
East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy and Public Matters, East Los Angeles, CA
Greetings from East LA is a collaborative community asset mapping and participatory design project where students from the East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy at Esteban Torres High School create an East LA version of the “Map of the Stars” found in more affluent areas of Los Angeles. Students will work inside and outside of school with an interdisciplinary team of artists, an architect/ social impact designer, urban planning professor, linked learning educator and a community journalist. The project explores and documents people and places in East Los Angeles, while responding to representation and equity. Read More ›

Word Lab The Word Lab: Young Voices, Big Ideas
Santa Cruz County Office of Education Young Writers Program and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, CA
The Word Lab is an extended-day program for students in elementary and middle schools to work together to strengthen their writing skills, develop themes and formats for their writing, publish their work, and see their work displayed and sold in local bookshops. The Word Lab is a partnership between Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s Young Writers Program and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History and brings together students, local artists and professionals, college students, business leaders, and educators to arouse youth voice and perspective, create art, and build community. Read More ›

Creating with Confidence: Design Thinking for Public Art
Warren Central High School, Herron School of Art and Design, and Arts for Learning, Indianapolis, IN
Creating with Confidence: Design Thinking for Public Art aims to support students at Warren Central High School, on the eastside of Indianapolis, as they build a stronger community by engaging local residents in design-thinking activities that lead to the creation of public art. By employing this approach, the students will design meaningful visual works of art for their school’s campus, as well as another accessible location in Warren Township. They will also learn from practicing artists and professional teaching artists more about how to involve residents of their community in a public art project to enhance neighborhood identity and foster a real spirit of place. Read More ›

TruArt From Classroom To Community Spaces: Cultivating Voices That Matter Through Arts Literacy
TruArtSpeaks, Minnesota Writing Project, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
This partnership seeks to bring in-school and out-of-school learning together through a collaboration of teachers and artists who prioritize creating space for the development of youth voices at the intersection of social justice, literacy, and arts. By designing a high school course together, From Classroom to Community Spaces will develop a curriculum anchored in contemporary African American literature, utilizing elements of Hip Hop and Spoken Word culture. Moving fluidly between the high school campus and local art space, this collaboration will meet the interests of students, provide equitable access to relevant coursework for students, and provide a space for students to develop their own voices in dialogue with contemporary African American texts and issues. Read More ›

KC Storytellers KC Storytellers Project
Greater Kansas City Writing Project and KC Wordshop, Kansas City, MO
KC Storytellers gives high school students a chance to share and experience each other’s real stories through story-slam events in Kansas City, dismantling student assumptions and negative attitudes about each other by building our community through the stories we share. KC Storytellers teams up with Louder than a Bomb-KC to transform our city through the powerful stories that students are burning to tell. KC Storytellers celebrates the human experience of our city’s young people and in the sharing of these experiences diminishes racial and cultural barriers while building bridges toward understanding and overcoming challenges. Read More ›

Bridging Borders: STEM Writing & Girls Tech Camps
Borderlands Writing Project, Las Cruces, NM
Bridging borders between in- and outside-of-school environments, between writing and the STEM disciplines, as well as between girls and technology, this project helps youth in grades 6-12 to improve their writing, to prompt creativity, and to support practice with tools of scientific inquiry. Participating girls will select a focal project based on their own interests—from creating robots and doing chemical experiments to video-gaming and applying quantitative reasoning to real world problems—while being connected to female mentors. Camp activities and school-based workshops will scaffold thinking related to students’ projects which will then be shared with the larger community. Read More ›

Wearable Design Playable Fashion Educators
Eyebeam and the Academy of Innovative Technology, Brooklyn, NY
Playable Fashion is designed to introduce youth to the concepts and techniques needed to create their own games and custom wearable game controllers, inspired by their own personal narratives. Sitting at the intersection between fashion, technology, and gaming, the overall goal of the program is to help teens develop the tools and knowledge they need to become the makers, not just the consumers, of games, coding, wearable fashion, and technology. In addition, by combining critical skill development in technology—and by providing a participatory means for applying this within the intersection of game design and wearable technology—Playable Fashion gives students the grounding to continue their STEAM learning and to understand the many career possibilities that this knowledge offers. Read More ›

Workshop School Philly The Workshop School Productions Project
The Workshop School, PhillyCAM and Scribe Video Center, Philadelphia, PA
What happens when students are trained to create professional quality media and film to represent the stories of their lives? In this project, the high school students at The Workshop School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania explore the use of animation, film, music, documentary, and other multimedia to showcase the stories of their educational experiences and of their lives in- and outside-of-school. Working with two local non-profit media and film groups, students become experts in cutting edge technology as well as the skills needed to become effective multimodal storytellers. Students will then use that expertise to teach new students. The work of the students will be shown at formal showcases organized by students as well as submitted to established outlets. Read More ›

Uncaged Learning Uncaged: How Do You Define Freedom? Connected Learning and the Juvenile Justice System
Nashville Public Library and the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, Nashville, TN
The Nashville Public Library and the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, a juvenile detention facility, will partner so that male residents, ages 13-19, can explore different layers of freedom by creating digital media projects designed to be self-reflective stories of how they define freedom. We will offer production-centered opportunities for the teens to learn, develop their interests, and have immediate exposure to additional support network opportunities they can embrace when they leave Woodland Hills. In order to reduce recidivism successfully, this project aims to support youth through a stronger sense of self, a confidence in newly developed skills that help cultivate interests, and a lasting and expanding sense of community connections. Read More ›

Rafting for Teens Rafting Adventure for Teens (RAFT)
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT
Rafting Adventure for Teens (RAFT) will combine elements of literature, building and design, metal working, and history into a grand adventure that will take place at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum campus. Designed to support students moving from middle into high school, youth will follow their interests and passions and co-create a semester long community-based learning experience connecting summer adventures to their learning and transitions in the fall. The project will culminate with an opportunity for the students to share their work at the World Canals Conference. Read More ›