Innovative Learning at MHS

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BY OWEN DINGLE

School can be boring for students – the same classes, the same schedule, 5 days a week.

With that being said, there are two types of teachers at Mariemont: teachers who are conscious of how boring their class can be and choose to do nothing about it, and teachers who are conscious of how boring their class can be and decide to make change.

Mr. Weiss seems the latter of the two.

Eric Weiss first came to Mariemont during the 2015-2016 school year, and I got the pleasure of having him as my English II teacher when I was a sophomore. Mr. Weiss is one of those teachers who take pride in their work–and rightfully so–the man can teach according to his students.

The man can also innovate.

This year, I have Mr. Weiss again for my 3rd bell English class. But this time around, the class has been different. Mr. Weiss has made a few changes to his teaching–with the intention of creating a more efficient and hospitable class environment for his students.

Seniors in Mr. Weiss’s English classes now take two short breaks during the 52 minute period: one halfway through the class, and one at the end. Mr. Weiss says this is called the pomodoro method, which is a modern productivity technique that allows for short breaks to celebrate small successes, which in turn creates for a more productive work environment.

“They can last anywhere from 3-5 minutes, depending on the day,” Weiss said.

The other major change that Mr. Weiss has done to his class takes place every Friday.

On Fridays, Weiss’ students walk into his classroom – not to write essays – but to innovate.

Friday is the one allocated day of the week for his students to explore something new – a new skill, a new topic, a new hobby – whatever the student chooses, as long as it’s approved by Mr. Weiss.

Weiss came across this idea in a book he read over the summer, titled The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. In the book, he read about a school that held an “Innovation Week,” where students worked on independent projects of their choosing.

The book that Mr. Weiss got the inspiration for Innovation Day. Notice the circled words. (PHOTO BY DINGLE)

He circled those words “Innovation Week,”and since then the ball hasn’t stopped rolling.

At the beginning of the year, Weiss had the students individually brainstorm their Innovation Day ideas and projects. Each student filled out a request form, which lines out the student’s goals and how the student is going to track their success.

If Mr. Weiss accepts the idea, he signs off and the student is in business.

Here are what a few of his seniors are working on in class.

Jake Motto, who has never played a string instrument before, is learning how to play the ukulele.

“It’s going alright, but I’m still trying to get the tuning down, “ Motto says. “I’m left handed, so the string’s tuning is flipped.”

Miller Steele, competitive rower for the Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club, is taking the Innovation Day opportunity to teach himself the guitar.

“Learning the guitar is going well,” Steele says. “I think it’s a great idea, and I think people are getting a lot out of it,” he added. “Sometimes it’s a little difficult for me though, because the guitar is loud and I don’t want to interrupt the other students. That’s why I practice in the closet, where it’s quiet.”

Cole Harden, who has Weiss during third bell, is teaching himself how to solve a rubix cube.

Cole Harden challenges himself to solve the Rubix Cube. (PHOTO BY DINGLE)

“Learning how to solve the rubik’s cube has been insane,” Harden says. “I didn’t really think it was possible until I did it myself. I watched a youtube video and wrote down the different steps, or algorithms if you will, on how to do it,” Harden adds.

“I presented in front of the class to the song ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe, and finished the cube in under 3 minutes and 20 seconds,” Harden added. “My personal record is 1:44.52 seconds.”

Sydney Huber is taking the opportunity to learn the handwriting style of calligraphy.

“It’s a lot harder than people assume,” Huber said. “Now that I know how to do it, I sometimes do it in my notes or other times that I write.”

Kyle Mason is teaching himself how to create balloon art.

“I started off only being able to make a dog, but now I know how to make a butterfly, and even a lightsaber,” Mason said.

Sydney Huber works on her calligraphy skills while William Kemper quietly observes. (PHOTO BY DINGLE)

Innovation Day has allowed for students to pursue something they are personally interested in, which is what some might call a rare occurrence at any high school.

Jacob Gunner, a gentleman and a scholar, talked to me about his opinion on the matter.

“You know what? I do often feel restricted by our school’s curriculum,” said Gunner. “I love that Mr. Weiss is providing an outlet for young minds such as myself to pursue a passion that we get to choose ourselves.”

Mr. Weiss’ Innovation Day has created a new environment for the students to explore in, and the students seem to really enjoy it.