Inspiration for Weiner Elementary “Cardinal Creativity College” School of Innovation Prior to the beginning of the 2013-2014 school-year, we met as a faculty to share ideas that would extend the education of our students in new ways. As a result, “Club Cardinal” and “Creativity College” were added to the curriculum with the purpose of immersing –not just our students –but our entire school in creative thinking, communication skills, and differentiated learning activities. The success of both more than encouraged us to push the envelope further by seeking designation as a “School of Innovation,” reaching deeper and broader into every aspect of learning required for today’s rapidly changing world.
The last hour of each Friday that year, “Club Cardinal” provided enrichment opportunities, giving student experiences in areas typically foreign to the regular classroom. “Club Cardinal” found students in multi-age group classes taught by teachers, based on individual interests and the “previously” hidden expertise of our faculty. Each student was given a list of course offerings to choose from. Some of the class choices have ranged from “Chess” to “Pioneer Skills” to “Beginning Piano,” to “Beginning Dance” to “School Newspaper” to “Junior LEGO League” to “Community Helpers” where students visited local businesses! Positive feedback from students and parents was overwhelming. A “Club Cardinal Showcase” for parents and the community was presented in December where students demonstrated, performed, or shared what they had been doing. Course offerings changed at semester. Students and teachers enjoyed learning in multi-age group settings, inspiring hopes of building upon flexible grouping in other areas.
Cardinal Creativity College was an outgrowth of our school’s gifted and talented program, expanding that program to include all students AND their teachers! This program became an integral part of the overall curriculum by showing teachers and students how to mesh creative thinking skills into the core subjects of Literacy, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Recognizing the need for cultural experiences, all students in 5th & 6th grades were taken to see “WICKED” at the Orpheum in Memphis –something entirely new for them! Background, prior to that trip, was provided by the counselor who focused on the bullying of Elphaba, WICKED’S main character, where students learned the importance of being an Upstander; the music teacher immersed students in the play’s music and within Creativity College students looked at the writing techniques and symbolism found in the libretto. In December of that year, “Creativity College” involved the entire school, including the faculty, in the production of a Christmas Variety Show for parents and the public; the performance showcased multiple communication skills: music, drama, public speaking, and dance. The auditorium was packed.
Those two years of experimenting with the idea of making school "something more," led to our transition to applying as an Arkansas School of Innovation. We saw the impact of two ideas that returned much more than we ever anticipated. We witnessed our students blossoming because of innovation on a somewhat, small scale; we were eager to incorporate innovation into our entire education program, making it part of the whole, knowing “It Is Time,” and “It Will Work!”