Innovation Hour is one of FAST’s distinct ideas to highlight our commitment to learning by doing. During a six-day rotation, students have classes four out of every six days where they have time set aside specifically to invent, explore, and create.
Innovation is about learning how to solve problems. Innovation is about making mistakes. Innovation is about learning skills. Innovation is exciting!
A Step Beyond STEM
While many schools offer classes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), FAST goes a step further by offering Innovation Hour. Innovation teachers lead students through projects that allow them to be creative, explore ideas across all subjects, and develop solutions to real-world problems using the design thinking cycle.
Across our curriculum, students experience ways to be creative, curious, and collaborative. They build and write, read and plan, design, and experiment so that when they have reached a goal, they have done so thoroughly and in great depth.
FAST’s unique Innovation Curriculum is based on the 5-step design thinking cycle created at the Stanford d.school and is designed to teach students problem-solving in ways that are developmentally appropriate. Younger students being learning the basics by practicing brainstorming and creating prototypes that they will then analyze and redesign. The crucial element of empathy is added in second grade and helps students comprehend the importance of understanding who is impacted by a problem and why the problem exists. Third through 7th graders then apply the full innovation cycle to exploring world cultures, improving the environment, inventing a product people actually need, creating the ideal school, and understanding social influence. In 8th grade, students complete a year-long capstone project where they apply what they’ve learned in innovation class to a topic that is of interest to them.
Learning how to solve problems, especially complex real-world problems, requires skills that students can learn over time. By the time our students graduate FAST after 8th grade, they will understand and master problem solving and design thinking skills and strategies that allow them to approach all problems in life with confidence, creativity, and poise.
At FAST, students participate in a weekly Genius Hour. During this set time, teachers begin by guiding students as they brainstorm and explore their own wonders and passions. From there, students spend several weeks researching their topic and are challenged to create a product to share their learning with the class, the school or even the world. Throughout the process, teachers check in with students providing feedback and focus. Students and parents are encouraged to work together by finding experiences, interviews or experts to guide them as they explore their interest. Topics are wide and varied and have included learning new oil painting techniques, creating a website about the solar system, designing shoes, and raising awareness about childhood cancer.
Genius Hour has been praised for providing students space for developing creativity, autonomy, and intrinsic motivation. We have sought to provide choice within structure during this process, allowing for students to create their learning while teaching skills that transfer into all areas of life. During your child’s time at FAST, these skills are scaffolded through the grades, ultimately preparing students to have a better understanding of themselves and others.