At the Neil Armstrong Academy in West Valley, Robin Farnsworth believes that students learn best when they discover how to solve problems on their own. Her third graders become so engrossed in their projects -- from creating planetarium to programming Lego robots -- that they groan when she announces it's time for recess.
Chris Humbert was an architect who designed Olympic venues in Park City. Now, he uses his architectural background to help his students at Kearns Junior High learn the engineering process. His 7th graders design bridges, eco-friendly cities, and farms while his 8th graders learn to design and build wooden race cars.
Even the sixth grade is not too early to begin providing students with hands on, real-world projects. At Shelley Elementary in the Alpine School District, Brandon Engles' students are working with NASA to make their own discoveries by learning to think like scientists.
Charlie Matthews is a teacher in the Park City School District Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PCCAP). His engineering students tackle real-world projects with a solar power company, an architectural firm, and other local businesses. They've engineered ski equipment for disabled veterans and designed a music app for Alzheimer's patients. Some graduates have already started their own companies.
At American Fork High School, Wendy Frazier-Snyder prepares her students for careers in a digital world by engaging them in cutting edge technology. Through self-directed, hands-on projects, students learn online newspaper production, Photoshop, photojournalism, and more.
Innovation in the classroom helps students master content while producing, synthesizing, and evaluating information from a wide variety of subjects and sources. Students demonstrate 21st century learning skills, the three Rs and the four Cs: critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. Innovation in the classroom is student driven, engages learners, and provides unique opportunities otherwise unattainable. Innovative teachers are trying something new, infusing passion into learning, tapping into students’ ideas, and using innovative tools to improve student learning.
The five educators above are being honored this year for their classroom innovation, originality, and creativity; application of 21st century learning skills; student engagement; and student learning.