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School Stories

Innovation Skills Transfer to Academics and Beyond

By Elizabeth Leddy, Innovation Specialist
When our youngest students enter the Gates Invention and Innovation Lab, their eyes light up in wonder as they see tools they will one day use and inventions they may one day create themselves. Our Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten students’ curiosity is sparked as they step into the lab and sit on the rug, ready to learn. Although this is a space to tinker, experiment, and play, Lower School students are also practicing skills that will transfer to learning experiences in the classroom and throughout their lives.
The Gates Lab is a safe space to try new things, push students outside of their comfort zone, and learn through failure and mistakes. After students practice these skills during an innovation lesson, we talk about how these innovation skills transfer to other parts of our day. Students might discuss what collaboration looks like during a Grade 2 PE class, what grit/perseverance looks like in a Grade 3 math lesson, or what critical thinking looks like during a Grade 4 social studies project later in the day. The ability to practice and reflect upon these innovation skills in a low-risk learning environment supports the dynamic learning environments on campus and fosters intellectual growth in our learners.

Our Kindergarten Tinker Time curriculum establishes a foundation for our innovation program, which introduces our students to the innovation skills, allows them space to practice these competencies, and provides time to reflect on how they transfer back to classroom academics, such as math and literacy. At the end of our Tinker Time classes, we reflect on the skills that we practiced and discuss how they might be useful throughout the rest of the day. In Helen Valiant’s Kindergarten writing workshop block, students transfer their knowledge from Tinker Time and talk about grit and the importance of pushing through and being brave as they come up with topics to write about, revise, and ultimately share with their classroom community and beyond. The ability to share stories requires creative and critical thinking, curiosity, and empathy, which are practiced every time students visit the Gates Lab.

During a Lower School student’s time at Graland, students experience a balance of academics along with classes that inspire innovation, creativity, and exploration. This can be seen in the following:
  • Drama performances as students collaborate while performing different roles, working together to change sets, direct the lights, and adjust the sound.  
  • Spanish classes where empathy and curiosity are fostered as students explore different countries, music, and food, all through the lens of language. 
  • Music, science, art, PE, and library classes which require perseverance, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking daily. 

All of these Graland Lower School experiences help students practice our innovation skills, which then transfer to other intellectual learning environments at Graland and beyond. When we provide experiences for students to practice empathy, creative thinking, perseverance, and collaboration in a low-risk learning environment, we allow students to build confidence and empower them as they transition to other parts of their day. 

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.