Why Does Education Have to Think Outside the Box?

Education is the pathway to the future ― and innovation is integral to paving that road. That’s why schools have a critical role to play in nurturing innovation and in harnessing its power to take us where we never thought possible.

Dwight is proud to play that role for students and faculty, encouraging them to imagine a better world today. Thanks to the support of The Dwight School Foundation, we have launched the Spark of Innovation Program to provide resources, both financial and in the form of mentors, to help take ideas for new products, businesses, public policy, and social enterprises with real-world applications from the drawing board into the marketplace.

While leading universities have created such programs in support of start-ups by entrepreneurs at the college level, we want to bring the same opportunity to students at a much younger age when imaginations know no boundaries. The Spark of Innovation Program is designed for students beginning in kindergarten through grade 12, who think outside the box and envision a better world.

I see hundreds of glowing embers of possibilities in Dwight students, and every day I am reminded that if they can imagine it, we as educators owe students the chance to help make it happen. Thanks to The Dwight School Foundation and its supporters, we’re on a path to nurturing innovation beyond the classroom on a level previously unimaginable. I invite you to watch the Spark of Innovation video to learn more.

What Is Symbolic about Dwight’s “School of Spirits” Doors?

Anyone who has crossed Dwight’s transom at 18 West 89th Street knows that the gateway to our school is comprised of double hand-forged iron doors that are not only quite heavy but also beautiful to behold. These architectural icons of our campus, named the “School of Spirits” doors, were designed intentionally to be difficult to open.

Each door weighs 1,000 pounds. They were crafted by James Garvey, a Dwight parent (Sara ’95, Dwight+EntranceConstance ’98, and Noah ’99), who is one of the leading metalsmith artists in the world. He wanted students to realize that they need to make an effort to learn, to overcome inertia to enter and excel; and that once inside Dwight’s learning community, they would feel safe.

The ironwork is complex and labor-intensive — and reflects Dwight’s 143-year legacy of merging tradition with innovation. The doors were created using ancient forging methods that originated before the Middle Ages combined with techniques developed in modern times.

Donated to Dwight in 1994 by the artist, our “School of Spirits” doors are again in the spotlight through a current re-crafting project by Mr. Garvey. I am reminded that the ornamental doors mirror the narrative of every child that enters Dwight’s portal. It is the story of overcoming small setbacks as a necessary ingredient to achieve anything of significance. Great teachers, just as the artist who created the “School of Spirits” doors, help to forge students with iron wills and open hearts. Historic and heroic teachers are memorialized in the doors, as they assist children to ascend to become ethical leaders. The doors represent the hopes and dreams we have for our children.

To learn more about Mr. Garvey’s work and the original concept for our “School of Spirits” doors, visit jamesgarvey.net

 

 

 

 

 

How Can a School Today Ensure Tomorrow’s Innovations?

Dwight’s motto, “igniting the spark of genius in every child,” is imbued with a promise that the interests and passions of students — as well as those of faculty — can and should be nurtured. This philosophy requires a commitment to supporting creativity and pursuits that may take students and faculty, alone or together, down a new road of inquiry, discovery, and innovation.

How can a school like Dwight pave that road when their path is not yet charted?

The answer may lie in embracing the mindset of such leading universities as Stanford and Harvard, where programs designed to support innovators, business developers, and social entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to market and build a better world have taken hold. My hope is that Dwight will join them by developing its own culture of innovation program.

As an International Baccalaureate (IB) School in which faculty and students embody the IB learner profile, which includes being a risk-taker, Dwight already fosters a culture in which innovation is the norm. Students as young as three years old begin to learn what that means through the IB Primary Years Program. As they grow and develop their own interests and talents, students start to take larger risks in areas where they excel or strive to go.

We hope that where they go is wherever their minds, hearts, and imaginations can take them. And we know that they may need our support in doing so.

Can a school develop a platform for catapulting student and faculty designers, artists, engineers, scientists, and enterprising individuals who wish to explore their ideas, develop prototypes, and map their vision for a better product, service, or world? How would you develop an innovators and entrepreneurs program at Dwight, so that great ideas and inventions can go beyond the classroom and into real-life application?