Innovations High School enjoys visit with Superintendent Traci Davis

What a great, high-energy welcome I experienced at Innovations High School. The student body was gathered to meet me during their morning ‘kick-in.’ We danced, we laughed, and we had a great start to our day. Interacting with the Innovations HS kids was a true joy.

Sitting with Principal Taylor Harper, administration, and support staff, I learned more about the dynamic systems in place at Innovations. I heard first-hand about the scholar (student) population and the details about how they model Big Picture Learning including the internship component. The details I learned about were fascinating and I gained a better understanding of the unique work being accomplished at this school. Not only do they model Big Picture Learning but they are piloting programs that have and may be used by other similar schools nationally. The advisors (teachers) work diligently to educate the scholars and support them as they become active, community-minded adults. Additionally, there are a number of support staff that play a key role in taking care of the needs of the scholars. Innovations HS has experienced success with their restorative practices and this success is evident in their academic achievement.

The advisors all participate in ‘front porch.’ Each morning, the advisors, administrators, and support staff greet scholars in front of the school and at the door as they arrive. They warmly welcome and engage the students before their school day even starts. This is part of the overall philosophy to embrace every student in a loving, nurturing environment that provides opportunities for them to thrive and grow in their academic journeys. I appreciate the hard work of all of the Innovations staff and scholars.

It was a pleasure to visit classrooms and talk to the advisors and scholars. I enjoyed seeing their work and the amazing learning environments throughout the school. There was enthusiasm and the scholars definitely take ownership in their learning.

Scholars in Jon O’Brien’s science class were making smoke bombs to study chemical reactions. They were working collaboratively in groups and talking about the experiment. I talked to several groups and was impressed with their detailed explanations. During this class, Zack showed me the published letter to the editor he wrote on a topic he was passionate about. It was so refreshing to see this young man working within established boundaries to voice his opinion. I am so proud of him.

Angie Duncker’s math students were involved in a unique hands-on math lesson using masking tape on the floor to model a mini golf course. They were using this lesson to study geometry and see how angles work in a practical setting. This engaging work was transferred to the math worksheets they were completing.

Students were involved in dynamic discussion and learning in Condell Williams’ and Andrew Protz’s History of Rap Music class. The scholars were working on a rap message project and each project was individualized. They were also having a class discussion around legal issues as they relate to rap and the musicians.

Jeff McKillip’s Fine Arts classroom was a busy and interesting area. Scholars were independently working on music, art, and clothing design. Mr. McKillip, or Captain, as they scholars call him, was talking about how they recently added blacksmithing to their curriculum. The creativity and amazing artwork in the room was fascinating.

Scholars in Sarah Frances’ advisory class were working on resumes. I talked to several kids during this class and was interested to learn why they decided to apply and attend Innovations HS. The scholars shared honest and heart-felt explanations. I also spent time in her digital music class where they had a local celebrity musician leading an analysis of song lyrics and the implications to politics, economics, and its’ relevance to our world today. The scholars had many insightful thoughts about the powerful lyrics from a Marvin Gaye song released in 1973. I enjoyed the rich dialog.

I always enjoy visiting Lucy Dugan and her classroom. The scholars in her English class were reviewing and analyzing scholarship application submissions. They were looking at the essays that were attached to the applications. The conversation in the class was very thoughtful.

I hosted the entire freshman class at Innovations HS for a special lunch. I talked to them about our mission to prepare all of them for the next steps in life after high school. We also talked about the unique opportunities they get to experience at Innovations with the Big Picture model that involves the internship and community involvement component. The scholars asked me some great questions and shared how they felt valued by the school staff.

Before I left Innovations, Emma, a junior, shared details with me about a community project she is leading to educate the community about water awareness around the Great Basin region. It involved young children doing beautiful watercolor artwork using water from our area lakes; a traditional Native American meal prepared by Emma using local, organic foods; and an arts and science learning component. Emma is a truly wonderful young lady and I was delighted to hear about her amazing project.

It was a privilege to spend time at Innovations HS and learn about the approach they use to educate their scholars. Interacting with the scholars is always such fun. I appreciate all the hard work put in by school staff and the scholars. They are all amazing!