Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lowell Milken Center Discovery Award

Discover An Unsung Hero with the Lowell Milken Center

Innovation has always been the key to America's success.  Innovation and creativity are integral to the American spirit, and they have been the foundation that has led the United States to greatness for more than two hundred years.  As an educator I have written often of the importance of creativity, innovation, and discovery in the classroom.  From the speeches of Sir Ken Robinson to the writings of Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink to my own experience with multi-genre writing and multi-genre research projects, I have tried to promote an emphasis on creativity and innovation in the classroom.

In the world of education reform, project-based learning has gained increased attention over the years as teachers and reformers seek ways to the move our classrooms away from the monotony of textbook-based lesson plans and the all-too-common lecture.  Students are naturally creative and unique individuals, and, thus, many struggle with a one-size-fits all education model that is, in many ways, based on 19th-century thinking.  On the other hand, giving students a path and an interactive way in which to make their journey unleashes their creativity and engagement with learning, regardless of the subject.  It's like making students into explorers and adventurers - and that's far more intriguing than being note and test takers.

One little-known organization that has been working hard to share and promote the power of project-based learning is the Lowell Milken Center.  Named for and founded by education philanthropist Lowell Milken in 2007, the Kansas-based organization has been churning out rather impressive projects that have resulted in  national and world news coverage.  And, now, they are offering students the chance to win a whopping $10,000 for their efforts in uncovering an unknown historical figure.  $10,000.  That is huge.  And, I am impressed with an organization that is so committed to creativity and innovation that they are willing to honor student work in such a way.

The winners of the Inaugural year of the Lowell Milken Center Discovery Award will be announced this July, and I can't wait to see what history students and teachers have come up with in pursuit of this goal.  If you haven't yet heard about this award, the Lowell Milken Center asked students across America to create projects around the story of an unsung hero who has changed history.  The really cool part is that students can present their discovery in a variety of genres such as documentary film, a performance, an exhibit, or a website.  That multi-genre angle is what really caught my interest and inspires me about this organization and this contest.  Far too often, these contests are essay-based, and that requirement turns off many creative and insightful students.  Students today have much to say, and they can do so in a variety of engaging and professional multi-media formats.  It is truly amazing to see what a group of young people can discover and produce when given the opportunity and a supportive teacher along for the journey.

This approach reminds me of the multi-genre research projects my students have done in our study of individuality and the American spirit.  Rather than complete an essay or research paper like they've done for countless classes, I encouraged them to research their information and then present it in whatever genres speak to them.  This lesson always produces their best work of the year.  Additionally, such an approach is much more real-world practical and represents the type of educational model we need for 21st-century learning.  So, I encourage you to check out the Lowell Milken Center and the Lowell Milken Center Discovery Award.  I know I am going to promote this organization and its award to my students and colleagues.  I hope parents and teachers encourage their students to take advantage of this cool and exciting opportunity.

The Lowell Milken Center Discovery Award is the type of creative and innovative thinking that will help improve American education.

NOTE: This entry is a Guest Post sponsored by the Lowell Milken Center

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