This month’s Teacher Feature focuses on Mr. Eric Fogle of the Seneca Valley School District! He is certainly not afraid of new innovations. When last school year ended, Mr. Fogle left a traditional school library at Haine Elementary School. This year, Mr. Fogle and the students are utilizing the all new CIRC lab, designed by Inventionland Institute using its Creativeland product and design solutions. Now, this lifelong Star Wars fan has the “force” to bring together students and teachers in a cutting-edge educational environment!
Your library recently underwent quite a transformation. What was your first reaction when you saw the new space? How did the students react?
I think my reaction was very similar to the students: Awe & Wonder. The space is vastly different than the library space it was last school year. It was modeled and designed to stimulate creativity just like the Inventionland environment. We have the same wall art as Inventionland and we even have our own tree house, equipped with a slide! And just like many of my students, I made sure I was the first teacher to go down the slide (even when no one else was around)! I’m not going to lie to you, I was hesitant last year when the plans were first laid out for review, as I was unsure if such big changes were even possible in just one summer vacation. I’m glad I was proven wrong!
The students absolutely love the new space. We’re calling it the Creativity, Innovation, Research Center (CIRC). The students look forward to their scheduled activities each week. On the first week of school, one particular student even tugged on my shoulder and said, “Mr. Fogle, this place is a dream!” I couldn’t agree more!
What are your plans for new space this year? Will that change in future years?
I work with a fantastic team of teachers to pull all of the new ideas for this new space. Mrs. Larson & Mrs. Marks are the elementary computer/librarian “team,” and Mrs. Rowe & I make up the middle school computer/librarian “team.”
The new space is shared between an elementary (K-4), and a middle (5-6) school. We have nearly 1,400 students. Balancing two different schedules is a challenge that the team of teachers I work with are willing to conquer. Currently, elementary uses the space for many hands-on STEAM activities. Students have already worked on fun, hands-on engineering and programming challenges. The teachers are also anxious to start piloting the elementary Inventionland curriculum once it is released.
In the middle school, my co-teacher, Mrs. Rowe, and I split the year in half with semester long projects. One semester will have students working through the Inventionland curriculum. Students will go through the 9-Step process while incorporating the four C’s (Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking). The second semester will continue the four C’s, but the group projects will directly tie into the curriculum the students are learning in their classrooms. We work with the home room teachers to develop small group projects such as Create a Game, Interview someone with green screen, Design an Escape Room, or program robotics. Teachers pick the activity and then choose the curriculum they want to incorporate into that activity. For example: if teachers pick the “Create a Game” activity, they can choose the curriculum that best fits their needs, such as fractions & decimals, or a game on the Revolutionary War.
I am excited to see what the students invent this year! As for future years, my team and I will reflect on the lessons and projects from this year. We will also meet regularly with the other computer/librarian teams from other school buildings in my district to discuss what is working and what needs to change. We’re lucky to have a supportive administration that also encourages us teachers to take risks, and learn from the mistakes and challenges we are sure to encounter.
Why do you feel it is important to instill an innovative spirit in your students?
Students are already naturally curious and innovative. They still see the world as something that they can still “conquer.” Thankfully we have an opportunity to break some of those old-school teaching methods and really encourage students to FAIL ((F)irst (A)ttempt (I)n (L)earning)! Our school has really embraced the “Growth Mindset” idea created by Carol Dweck. We encourage students to break away from a Fixed Mindset where people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. Instead, we practice a Growth Mindset, where people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
I see that you are a Star Wars fan! Have you always been a fan of new technologies as they are rolled out?
HA! I do love Star Wars, and so do my wife & children at home! While I love tackling new technologies and taking risks at work, surprisingly I am pretty low-tech at home! I still prefer paper books over digital versions, and I even have pay-as-you-go phone, instead of the latest iPhone! In my personal life I am a coach to my son’s Odyssey of the Mind team, which is a competition on creativity. I also serve on the board of trustees of my local public library, and one of my goals there is to grow the STEAM program for the younger kids who use the library. Pretty soon my local library will be getting their own 3D printer, and some other great technologies, and I cannot wait to see the growth of the new programs!
I always try to be in the forefront of new educational technologies in my schools, but there is still something to be said about good old cardboard and hot glue!