Revolutionary K-12 education might look like a creative incubator | Catherine Fraise

Revolutionary K-12 education might look like a creative incubator | Catherine Fraise

September 9, 2019 35 By Ronny Jaskolski


I started out as a public school teacher,
and then when I had children I explored a lot of different alternative pedagogies and
Montessori was the one that I felt most comfortable with. And I really liked Montessori because she
was a scientist and she observed children and their behavior and what they needed in
their development. And she found universal pieces that you need
to have in an environment for them to thrive and to develop optimally. So I thought I’d take the human tendencies
and all the wisdom that she had collected over her lifetime and create an environment
where I could implement all those pieces, as well as make it very Google-like. Like a creative company, so that children
felt they were going to this amazing creative space to create their best lives ever. Some people might call that school. I call it getting an education. They have a board of parents and this professional
ed team to help them put it together, and they own their education. It’s really empowering for them. We want them to start it when they’re young
– when they’re seven and going up so that by the time they’re 27 they’ll have mad, crazy
skills and will be earning money, finding their niche, feeling really empowered to co-create
exactly the life that they want for themselves. So the 21st century skills that everyone seems
to be talking about now out there in the education world are communication, creativity, collaboration
and critical thinking. You need to create an environment where they
just integrate these skills naturally. You don’t have to teach these things if you
create the right environment where they’re doing that all the time and it’s just very
natural. So the best medium for that, in my opinion,
is what I call an interdependent community. It’s a large group of multigenerational people
doing their thing in all different ways intersecting just like a reef. If you could think about it like a coral reef
that’s teeming with life, and you’ve got all sorts of different people and different ways
they do things and they’re learning from each other. Not like something with four walls with an
authority figure and then a bunch of students who have to remember what that teacher has
told them. This is children who are having – they’re
free moving, they’re thinking all the time. They have to come up with their projects. They’ve got to design their education. They’ve got to keep themselves in balance. They’ve got to communicate with everyone. They’re all collaborating, doing all sorts
of different things. And they’re discovering who they are in the
process. It’s a very joyous way to be as a human, and
they manage to get the academics as well. School is becoming irrelevant. When I first created Workspace I was thinking
I wanted to make a space that incubated social entrepreneurs. Children who felt confident and were confident
to manifest their ideas whether they were a product or an idea for a play they wanted
to write. Any idea was fine. We have a design thinking model because we
want them to not just come in and do stuff without really thinking about what they want
to do. We want them to understand that an idea is
really just the beginning, a spark of what could be. So we really tease out what they could actually
do and what they really care about and what they’re good at. We help them launch into a big passion project. Now, when they make something or do something
you have to have sort of a platform that they can share what they’re doing with the community. We have two big marketplace events. We do a little Shark Tank for them. We do open mic night. We have karaoke salons and all sorts of different
ways that they can show the community what they’re doing. The community, the parents become this big
launch community that are helping these children on their journeys. So we like to, as much as we can, include
all the other parents in all the children’s projects so they get buy-in and they get someone
cheerleading them on. We have a professional ed team that is there
all the time to support our parents as they are implementing this journey for their children. We have a tech wizard we call him and he teaches
all tech in the building. He has made a little apprenticeship program
in laser cutting and 3D printing and the projectors and all the different technology in the building. When parents feel empowered to use the podcasting
equipment or the DJing equipment and everything else that goes on then a lot of projects can
happen that wouldn’t have happened before because now they have the equipment, they
have the know-how. They can actually help their child create
the kinds of products that the children are asking for like a YouTube channel or whatever
the children are wanting to do. So that’s one of the people. We have a dream director and she’s all about
helping children manifest their ideas. A lot of the children we’re seeing coming
in aren’t doing a lot of writing. They’re doing a lot of swiping and a lot of
typing, but they’re not doing a lot of writing and drawing like we did when we were growing
up. Sometimes it’s hard for them to get their
ideas from what’s inside their head to something on paper. We have a lot of digital tools, digital design,
a lot of different ways that children can authentically express themselves in this space. Some children like to do a lot of building,
so that would be done in the makery or the wood shop or the cardboard manufacturing area. Other children like art, so we have a big
art studio. We have a lab, a research lab like Merck. They do real science down there and our scientist
has a Ph.D. from Yale and her dream is to incubate scientists. She’s down there actively incubating scientists. We have global awareness where we do international
collaborations and we have virtual reality in there so they can use Google Earth to actually
fly down to the place that they want to visit or they might be talking to a group in another
country and they can go on Google Earth down to that place and see where people are buying
their groceries and seeing where the children they’re talking to are going to school. There’s just a lot of different ways that
humans express themselves so creating a building full of these creative studios is a really
effective way to get children really fully and authentically expressing themselves.