Monday, August 31, 2015

Surfing USA - Riding The Wave Towards Idea Street

"Unfortunately, many people are in the same trap—and not only in academia. We are influenced by our teachers and parents to the extent that we spend our lives trying, as best we can, to mimic them, and all too often we end up being second-rate replicas." Bernard Roth

Since the unveiling of Idea Street, our innovative learning environment, there has been an overwhelming amount of questions that have come my way. Yet, the most frequent questions:

"You have surfboard bars in your school?  What are they for and where are they?" 

Yes, we have three 8 foot "made from scratch" surfboards. Two will be bars and one will be the official sign of IDEA STREET. Why do we have surfboard bars? Well...WHY NOT! 

Our school is located in a small town that prides itself on many things, including being "The Gateway To The Shore."  

IT Director Aleng Phommathep (@Alengman)

Interim Superintendent Bob Garguilo (@Rgarguilo60)

First coat

Frog tape works wonders

Bulletin Board Removed
Rollin, Ted, and Robert measuring it up

Goodbye hallways and Welcome to Idea Street!

Dry erase board, surfboard bars, and stools are on the way!

 Learning anywhere, at anytime!  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Building The Foundation, One Brick At A Time

"When our self-worth isn't on the line, we are far more willing to be courageous and risk sharing our raw talents and gifts.  One way to embrace creativity is to let go of comparison." Brene' Brown.

This past winter, I had the opportunity to attend the executive summit at FETC in Orlando, Florida. During this great experience, I was able to collaborate with many great individuals and hear their stories.  Yet, it was Diana Rendina's (@DianaLRendina) story that stood out the most to me. She shared how she transformed her classroom into a place that embraced flexibility, innovation, and something untraditional.  Her classroom had a Lego Wall! Need I say more? 

As I mentioned earlier in Goodbye Hallways and Welcome to Idea Street, we created our own Lego Wall in the 5th grade section of Idea Street! Thanks to the help of Janice Dye (JaniceDye22) and Andrew Humphries, we were able to lay the very foundation of our new innovative space.  As it went up piece by piece, we laughed, shared stories, and couldn't help to wonder what the future holds when the students and staff get the opportunity "play/create/inspire." Just the thought of them sharing their talents and gifts with each other during class on Idea Street, or during passing, is exhilarating. 

The Cornerstone 
The Foundation

Alignment is Crucial 
Patience is a Virtue 


Friday, August 7, 2015

Goodbye Hallways and Welcome to Idea Street!

When someone enters your building or classroom, is it inviting them to be innovative or does it bring out a sense of something else? At our Middle School, we are about to embark on a remarkable journey. 

Welcome To Idea Street! 

Last January, I took a risk and placed a Makerspace in our hallway because our students deserved something better! ( This was a massive success, as it created a movement of makers (students and staff), while improving the climate and culture in the building. 

Take a moment and think about the hallways in your current learning environment. Lockers, open space, bulletin boards, and student work come to mind as it depends on the grade level building that you work in. As you walk down your hallways, does it create a sense of invitation of excitement to students or does it scream traditional, institutional, boring where discipline issues occur? More than likely, it's the later of the two. Yet, I have to ask, "Why do we continue to ignore this"? This ladies and gentlemen is where I draw the line. 

What our "hallways" used to look like. 

After reading David Jakes blog post last year, The Importance of Words in Education ( and having him brought in for a full day of design PD ( I couldn't help to think about our learning space more. 

The conversations that took place truly pushed my mindset to make a change. Why? Because, we are in preparing our students to excel in today's world, instead of the past. 

Statistically speaking, hallways in a school building make up to 30% or more of unused space. For the past year, I toyed with the idea of creating something different. Anyone that knows me, knows that I don't believe that all learning takes place in the "classroom" and we need to be different for our students. I even joked from time to time about making it look like Google, or Ron Clark's schools instead of just a boring space. 

So what did we do???? 

-All bulletin boards have been replaced by writable whiteboards. Other open areas have also been covered.  Yes, they can even use the windows overlooking the library and outside as dry erase boards too! Can anyone say d. School? 

-Stationary bikes have arrived. Yes, we have 5 stationary bikes on Idea Street. Imagine reading a book or just simply exercising while having a class on Idea Street?

-An 80in. by 80in. Lego wall is going up near the fifth grade wing. Creativity anyone?

-We constructed (yes, designed and cut) two bars for the idea wall/genius bar for our tech squad, in the shape of surfboards since we are a shore community. 

- 7 tall round bar tables with multicolored, raised chairs are on on their way!

- 10 Hokki stools are on their way! 

-Yes, we even have an aquarium going in on Idea Street!  A trophy case built into the wall, will be the home for our terrapin turtles that Mr. Law (6th grade science teacher) is receiving in a grant. 

-The students upon returning will be painting the aquarium area walls to resemble the turtles natural habitat. 

After putting the bikes together, a few tech squad students, Janice Dye (@JaniceDye22), our Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, and I went for a ride.  These will be positioned on Idea Street, overlooking the outside courtyard.

        LEGO WALL coming soon!

Our amazing IT Director, Aleng aka @Alengman is always around to assist when it comes to bettering our school!
Our goal is to create an "experience" for our staff and students to promote learning anywhere at anytime. Also, with the additional 10 tables going up outside, thanks to our PTO, we are creating an innovative environment that strongly supports our goal of implementing design thinking, hands on making, and being empathetic centered learners. 

Taking the advice of David, we changed our wording and renamed our hallways to "Idea Streets". 

As we move forward, I leave you with the very same question David Jakes presented to me. 

"Before you purchase or change anything for the sake of changing, what is the experience you are trying to create?"