The 4.0 Schools community is growing

Charlottesville, VA’s Keaton Wadzinski describes the first event hosted by 4.0 partner, ReinventED

On Wednesday, September 2nd, we held ReinventED Lab’s inaugural event: the ReinventED Community Kickoff Party, hosted at OpenGrounds. K-12 educators, UVA students, community organization representatives, and state-level education innovators all rallied over burritos to learn about the ReinventED vision: a community of creative problem-solving in education.

Here’s a look at what that party entailed:

Ask me about ______________

We kicked things off with informal networking to learn about fellow education innovators in Charlottesville. ReinventED supplied nametags encouraging attendees to fill in the following blank: “Ask me about ___________” (see below).

After thirty minutes of mingling and munching, everyone gathered ‘round to hear the ReinventED pitch.

Three Charlottesville stories

Our pitch began with the incredible story of Nick Anglin (featured on Edutopia), local middle-schooler who won Charlottesville’s Startup Weekend EDU 2014 and has since demoed his project at the White House, won Charlottesville Business Innovation Council’s Student Entrepreneur of the year award, and even received a shout out from Michelle Obama.

Next, I shared the story of Monica Gray, UVA alum and founder of DreamWakers. I met Monica at 4.0 Schools’ Essentials program in July, and identified her right off the bat as an ideal user persona for ReinventED, because the idea for DreamWakers began during her time at UVA, and this project would have been a perfect candidate for ReinventED programming. DreamWakers, a program connecting high profile individuals with k-12 classrooms via video conferencing, successfully made it into the iLab, where they tested their idea with educators across the state of Virginia. DreamWakers has since continued to grow and has connected k-12 classroomss to the NFL, the White House, and Whole Foods, among many others.

I conducted an interview with Monica on her experience at 4.0 Schools’ Essentials program. In her words, she “ left [4.0 Schools] having solved two major problems that had been stumping DreamWakers for the past year,” and “ultimately for [her], the biggest value was the people.” I then asked her to share her thoughts on ReinventED, to which she replied,

ReinventED Lab should exist to nurture smart innovation in the Commonwealth today for the good of our nation tomorrow.

Lastly, I shared my story — how I have worked for two years with the by-the-students, for-the-students nonprofit, Student Voice, went on to build a team of students to compete in 4.0 School’s Future of School Challenge (and make it to the final round of interviews in New Orleans!), and was selected as one of four members in the inaugural cohort of 4.0's Community Catalyst program.

The Community Catalyst program shared insights on 4.0 Schools’ five years of education innovation community building in New Orleans and two years in New York City to support the launch of ReinventED Lab in Charlottesville, Caroline Hill’s DC Equity Lab in DC, Mickey Millsap’s K12 Lean Labs in Birmingham, and John Raymond’s ImpactLab in Austin. John, Caroline, Mickey and I have become close friends and colleagues, communicating and collaborating on a weekly basis.

After speaking about the Community Catalyst program, I then shared “What We Do.”

At ReinventED, we build education innovation projects like Co-create UVA, we custom-design creative problem-solving curricula, and we run signature programs (see below).

ReinventED 24 Hour Challenge: What am I going to do after I graduate?

I polled the crowd: how many of you have ever been stuck in the existential crisis, wondering to yourself “What am I going to do with my life?”

We are attacking this question head-on with a 24 hour design challenge, created to connect students, educators, employers and community supporters from diverse perspectives in a user-centered design process to explore problems, generate ideas, and brainstorm potential solutions.

Stakeholder participants will be guided through the creative design process to “hack” this question. Projects can take many forms, from a solution for one student to a career guidance platform. Tickets available now.

Startup Weekend EDU: Problem-solvathon Edition

Building on the incredible momentum of last year’s Startup Weekend EDU (an event led by ReinventED ally, Chad Ratliff), we shared that ReinventED will be spearheading this year’s Startup Weekend EDU (SWEDU): Problem-solvathon Edition, which will be held November 13–15th at Western Albemarle High School (tickets available). This year’s edition will feature entrepreneurial thinking applied to user-identified challenges in education, and on Friday night, attendees will pitch these challenges, rather than their venture ideas, because we believe entrepreneurs must ground their work in a problem worth solving, to avoid developing a solution “chasing a problem.”

This year’s SWEDU will conclude with pitches of project solutions in any form: a physical prototype, a live website, a syllabus for a new class, drafted policy, a startup business model, and more. We will chiefly focus on starting people, not businesses.

Sticky note ideas

We had two built-in “post-it note activities” during the pitch to crowdsource ideas for ReinventED moving forward. The first asked “How might we nurture and grow this innovative energy” (referencing the stories of Nick Anglin and Monica Gray). The second asked “How might we unite people to creatively solve problems in education?”

Conclusion

With a wide array of perspectives present, I believe we succeeded in bringing a sample of the “who” behind education innovation in Charlottesville and beyond. That said, we are also determined to make sure even more perspectives are present at our events moving forward.

Also, we’re now testing out a ReinventED Ambassadors program for folks interested in being ReinventED spokespeople. If you’re interested, sign up here!

I’m stoked for ReinventED’s next steps. We’re putting our best foot forward. We’re hopeful. We’re together. And we’re thankful for all of you who have helped make it happen and are helping it grow.

Hope to see you at a ReinventED event soon.

-Keaton