Innovation in Practice

Less than two years ago, the Inly community came together to celebrate the opening of its new innovation lab, the da Vinci Studio.

Since that time, movies and videos have been made using green screen technology, Lego robots have been programmed to perform functional tasks (and compete in these tasks at an international level), creative clothes have been sewn, hundreds of decals have been created with the laser cutter, game pieces have been built with the 3D printer, and cars have been designed in CAD.

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Every Inly student from Kindergarten through Grade 8 has had time to use the new space: to inquire, to imagine, to invent, and to implement new ideas.

“We created the da Vinci Studio so our children could have a place where critical and creative thinking come to life,” says Inly’s Head of School, Donna Milani Luther. “I am absolutely thrilled to see how fluidly the space is being used; how integrated into all aspects of our curriculum it has become. We did a lot of work ahead of the opening to prep our teachers and staff on how to use the space and now, it’s like it’s always been here.”

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Middle School teacher, and avid da Vinci Studio instructor, Tschol Slade agrees, “I’m pleasantly surprised by how much activity there is in here all the time. Given all of the cutting-edge tools we are working with, it’s wonderful to see how really comfortable our students are. The percentage of kids not out of their element is remarkable.”

In addition to more formal class time in the da Vinci Studio, the space is also used by after school programs and during summer camps, and students of all ages are welcome (encouraged, in fact) to spend their free time thinking and tinkering in the round room at Inly’s core.

“The freedom we have in here is awesome. We can design and execute… we have excellent tools and resources and the time to make mistakes,” 8th grader John D’Allessandro says. “I want to become an engineer and so many of the skills I’m learning by working in the Studio are going to transfer into my life after Inly. Right now, I’m working on designing things to help organize the School. That’s what I’m doing with my free time.”

It doesn’t take long to feel the ‘magic’ of the space. It’s comes from the combination of students truly enjoying really challenging work with the knowledge that the skills that they are learning are critical to success in the world. Skills like working iteratively and always looking to improve on what’s been done before; working collaboratively with peers and coaches to give and receive feedback; and being encouraged to take risks and learn from both the successes and the failures.

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“We know that resilience is really important. And part of becoming resilient is getting experience with both success and failure,” explains Kelley Huxtable, Inly’s Technology Integrationist. “We make a point to celebrate failure as much as success, and kids feel that. It’s safe while doing this kind of work, and students learn that failure doesn’t come with judgement. In a way, when things don’t work, that’s when the studio is working best. That’s the opportunity.”

“With the da Vinci Studio we’re giving our kids the space and the time to draw their own conclusions,” Kelley adds. “We’re helping them to fill their toolboxes for the future in every way we can.”

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And, besides, it’s a whole lot of fun. “I really like the 3D printer,” says 5th grader Jaeger Fürst. “I’m trying to build a ship. The ‘Hour of Code’ time and the Lego Robots are also pretty cool.”

With recent studies suggesting that today’s children will hold 12 jobs in their lifetimes in five different careers, progressive schools like Inly are taking the idea of ‘future-proofing’ their students seriously.

“Our children will hold jobs that don’t even exist yet, and it’s our responsibility to prepare them. We are teaching them how to think, how to have the flexibility and fluency of mind they will need. We are working to make them real-world ready,” explains Donna.

“We worked towards the creation of this space for a long time,” she adds. “We planted and nurtured the seeds and it is so wonderful to see how they’ve blossomed.”

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