More than 100 educators, business people and students from across the region are expected to participate in NovaNow, a two-day conference that spotlights innovations in teaching and learning, from new ways to battle bullying to teaching math skills through computer coding.
The conference, being held at Kent Innovation High on Feb. 5 and 6, includes presentations from students at the school and seminars from area educators.
“I absolutely love it because these kids are applying their learning for a purpose,” said Michigan Teacher of the Year Richard Joseph as he toured the student-led presentations during the first day of the conference. Joseph added that the project-based learning found at KIH is often more connected to real-world issues than lessons out of a textbook.
Sophomore Alec Betancourt’s project focused on using a mix of renewable energies to power the world of the future. “I’m looking at places where electricity isn’t at your fingertips, but where it may be needed,” said Alec, explaining that the current consumption of fossil fuels isn’t sustainable. “It’s either going to kill our planet, or we will run out.”
Spotted perusing the exhibitions was Lupe Ramos-Montigny, a delegate from the State Board of Education. “They’re awesome, very creative. The critical thinking is very evident,” she said of the student presentations.
Ramos-Montigny said she was especially impressed with how the students applied their learning to some of the more abstract concepts within the projects, adding, “What student wouldn’t want to come and learn in this environment?”
Other student presentation examples include a Rube Goldberg Machine, which combines a series of chain reactions to accomplish an otherwise simple process, and a “Carbon Dating” dating game, where contestants react with each other as elements of the periodic table.
Now in its third year, NovaNow helps educators work through new curriculum standards in the most engaging ways possible. Local business professionals from tech companies Springthrough and Trivalent Group, Metro Health, Lacks Wheel Trim Systems and online regional promoter Hello West Michigan participated in a panel to talk about what types of skills they look for in entry-level employees.
“What’s different about this event is we’re having conversations about what’s important in education beyond the standards,” said Andrew Steinman, Kent ISD educational technology consultant. “So it’s not just about the what, but the why and the how.”