I-Team reimagines innovation at the school

Grants and discussions are first steps


Eli Waisburd, Opinions Editor

While many saw concealing masks, prepackaged meals, and online classes over the past year as obstacles, to Chief Learning Officer Jed Lippard and the rest of the newly established Innovation Team (I-Team), the pandemic was a catalyst for innovation among the campuses.

According to the I-Team, innovation at the school is “the creative process of generating and implementing ideas that disrupt, evolve, transform, and/or enhance current teaching and learning practices that result in better outcomes for all members of the diverse BB&N community and beyond.”

The group, which began meeting in April, consists of 19 community members including five campus representatives, two technology team members, two DEIG members, three Senior Leadership Team members, a student support team member, two board members, three students, an institutional researcher, and one staff member.

“Our goal right now is identifying key areas of innovation that are happening at BB&N across all three campuses and also looking at ways in which we can further innovate across the campuses,” Upper School (US) Science Teacher and I-Team Member Michael Chapman said. “It goes with that idea of project-based learning and interdisciplinary work that has percolated throughout the school. How can we make that more visible? What can we do to continue to make sure our school is forward-thinking as far as education and teaching and learning go?”

The program has turned largely toward the experiences of students for innovation opportunities, I-Team Member Kaia Patterson ’23 said.

“A lot of the time, students’ voices aren’t really involved when it comes to administration or when we are creating curriculum,” Kaia said. “[The I-Team] really does value our opinion. I think everyone on the I-Team would love if a student came up to Dr. Lippard or to me, Alisa [Ishii ’23], or David [Min ’22, the other two students on the I-Team] and asked us questions or [shared] concerns.”

One of the I-Team’s first initiatives involves a school-funded mini-grant program, for which anyone in the community with an innovative idea that betters the school and its members can apply. The I-Team currently supports eight teachers and teacher teams who spent the summer developing inventive curriculums, and plans to open applications for the grant again once they’ve reviewed the process and gauged interest levels, Dr. Lippard said.

US Art and Art History Teacher Nicole Stone received an I-Team grant for her AP/Honors Art History class to “examine monuments thematically, understand contemporary debates, and reimagine existing local monuments that reinforce oppressive power dynamics as well as understand monuments that celebrate joyous resistance to oppression.”

The I-Team also supported grant recipients through thought-provoking and resource-rich workshops and opportunities to collaborate with other teachers engaged in curriculum development projects, Ms. Stone said.

“It was an invaluable opportunity to be a part of a community of learners and leaders,” she said. “As teachers, it is clear that it is important to continue to engage in the learning process, as learning is at the center of what we are asking students to do every day. To make ourselves vulnerable, to take risks, and to push up against invisible thresholds of comfort is essential to having empathy for the journey students are undertaking every day. It enables us to better meet them on that journey.”

The project-based learning and interdisciplinary work that the grants inspire encourage a new type of learning at the school, Dr. Lippard said, adding that the I-Team looks to promote courses that help students develop mindsets and skills for success later in life.

“When you talk to people about the competencies and skills that people need to exhibit to be successful and happy in the current reality of our world, it doesn’t fall into strict disciplinary silos, like the subject areas that school reflects,” Dr. Lippard said. “It’s less about discrete skills and more about the ability to learn, collaborate, think critically, problem-solve, overcome adversity, and apply novel solutions to problems that we don’t even know exist yet.”

The I-Team hopes to continue exploring the limitless directions that innovation at the school could take, Dr. Lippard added, as the school embraces how the pandemic challenged what it means to teach and learn.

“We need to see messiness, mistake- making, and failure as a raw material for learning and growth and progress,” Dr. Lippard said. “There’s a psychological shift that needs to happen in a highly successful institution that gives people license and permission to experiment. We shouldn’t be afraid of innovation.”