Explore the 2016 Intermediate School IGNITE Blog for weekly reporting on IGNITE in action, including archery; jewelry-making; math, engineering, and physics; stop motion animation; 3D printing; performing arts; and creative writing.
Igniting the Spark
IGNITE (Inspiring Greatness Now: Innovation Through Exploration) is a program at Community Day School that enables students to articulate and develop an interest outside the regular curriculum that is intellectually stimulating and personally meaningful in order to deepen their sense of self and love of learning, along with an awareness of their own potential as a valuable creator of knowledge.
Through a combination of guest presenters, experiential lessons, design thinking, discussion, journaling, multimedia research, field trips, and creative projects, teachers guide students towards discoveries that lead to memorable learning experiences and original projects.
Created in 2012, the IGNITE program at CDS is constantly evolving and aligns itself with experiential learning in both Jewish and secular studies, a STEAM approach to interdisciplinary curricula, and the maker movement. Community Day School joins the exciting and important conversations among educators who know that in order to educate a whole child, as well as to prepare him or her for the workplace of the future, the natural curiosity and creativity that is so evident in young children must be nurtured, challenged, and valued at school. At CDS we believe that every child is gifted in unique ways; the IGNITE program is devoted to making sure that every child discovers …
Interdisciplinary and experiential
In our Lower School, teaching teams at each grade level choose a broad theme for the year to engage students while modeling how a topic can be approached from multiple perspectives, thus laying the groundwork for more independent work in the later grades. Themes have included “Community,” “Habitats,” “Elements of Art,” “Pittsburgh,” “Bridges,” and “Health." Students circulate between teachers, working in small groups to learn about various aspects of the topic, as well as to pose questions and respond to information in creative and challenging ways.
Learning is both interdisciplinary and experiential, and often involves, science, history, anthropology, art, music, literature, writing, video, and movement. Projects and experiences have included the creation of an art installation depicting four distinct natural habitats; setting up a cheering station at the PIttsburgh Marathon and visiting with elite African runners at school; investigating individual family genealogies and histories; exploring the steel industry’s history in Pittsburgh and conducting chemical experiments related to steel-making; producing original exercise videos; participating in yoga and martial arts classes; and engaging in interactive demonstrations by experts about a variety of cuisines and nutritional approaches.
Discovering talents and passions
In grades four through eight, our students take part in “Think Tank” sessions designed to help students identify their interests. Based on the expressed preferences and aptitudes of our student population of any given year, the IGNITE program leverages teachers’ talents and passions, grouping like-minded students around a suitable teacher-mentor. Teacher-mentors help students identify and develop group or individual areas for discovery, as well as guide them as needed in the challenging work of planning and executing a project that can be sustained over several months.
Group projects have included: studying the work of Rube Goldberg and making original machines; designing and building new toys; programming, robotics, and participation in the First Lego Robotics League; deepening the study of African percussion begun in music class and performing; producing a student fiction reading; and staging and performing a short theatrical work.
Individual projects have included: testing and comparative analysis of various materials to line football helmet in order to help protect players from concussions; writing, directing, filming, and editing original films of a variety of topics and cinematic styles; writing works of fiction; investigating the resurgence of crafting in America, the history of wearable art, and learning how to make different accessories and styles of jewelry; analyzing sports statistics, creating original paintings, sculptures, drawings, and ceramic pieces; and building and designing original board games.
The list goes on and on.
While the IGNITE program encourages students to focus on the process of learning and creation, participation in our final exposition — IGNITE Expo — is a goal and a highlight of our year. During IGNITE Expo, students and teachers return to school in the evening to view, listen, share, and sample the work that students have done. On this exciting evening, Community Day School becomes an interactive, hands-on museum, where students can celebrate innovation and creativity and enjoy the impressive fruits of their labor together with their families.