Today I had the opportunity to take a peek into the Explore New Ideas (ENI) Workshop, which is new to the Lower School at Town. It’s a great resource for our design thinking endeavors, as it provides space and materials to tinker and build. There are designated times for 3rd and 4th graders to use the space, and all teachers can sign up to use the space on their own, or coordinate for coaching from fourth grade teacher, Jij De Jesus (“Mr. D” to the kids), who is managing the ENI Workshop. He’s shared some background about the ENI with us:
What is it?
ENI inspires curiosity and creativity in students through hands-on, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-centered inquiry activities.
By creating opportunities for boys to “explore new ideas”, and coaching them through the learning and thinking processes, students develop core competencies and skills that are relevant in all aspects of life. Hands-on investigative STEM activities develop inquiry, promote an understanding of the nature of learning, and allow for students to autonomously engage in the process of knowledge construction.
As a school, we also recognize the unique opportunities presented to us as inhabitants of the Marina Campus this year. We want to take full advantage of the increased space and prime location to maximize the benefits for the boys and their learning. In that sense, ENI will draw inspiration from the Exploratorium, former occupant of the Marina campus, and the surrounding Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
ENI utilizes best practices from a number of innovative teaching approaches to meet the specific needs of our boy learners.
Project Based Learning (Buck Institute)
Design Thinking (Stanford d.school and Lime Design)
Inquiry and Science Process Skills (Exploratorium)
ENI activities and projects will involve investigating and solving a real-life problem, or building and designing a product that successfully meets a given challenge. Students will often work in small teams, using collaboration and communication skills.
Significant academic content will provide a foundation for ENI projects, exploration will be guided by questions that provide focus, and after multiple opportunities to research and develop their ideas, students will be asked to publicly share their thinking and what they learned.
ENI will be integrated into the already existing curriculum and schedule of Lower School classes.
Students in K-2 will participate in ENI activities as scheduled by grade level teaching teams, especially during times where the curricular content is particularly conducive to creative exploration.
In 3rd Grade and 4th grade ENI Workshops take the place of the former electives program. Boys in these grades will participate in 2 of the 4 ENI Workshops this year, 1 per semester. The Workshops offer small group instruction (10-12 students) during one hour-long class each week. ENI Workshops for this year are:
Most ENI activities will take place in the ENI workshop, located in the northeast corner on the ground floor of the Marina Campus. At times, aspects of multi-day ENI activities will be facilitated in students classrooms or outside in the surrounding area.
Our second graders have used the ENI Workshop to answer questions about seed germination (How will I know if my lima bean seed it germinating? What will it look like?) and we will be heading back later this week to plant our own seeds. We are looking forward to many discoveries in the ENI Workshop!
2nd graders finding signs of seed germination
2nd graders investigating for signs of germination
4th grade challenge observations
Mr. D and 4th graders testing and evaluating sailboat prototypes
Sharing ideas for sailboat designs
Bike repair in the Mechanical Engineering room of the ENI