The Schoola team just returned from a whirlwind trip to the SXSWedu Conference & Festival. Our goal was to meet and partner with education innovators as they work to better their schools with new learning apps, maker spaces, and cutting-edge curriculum. With thousands of attendees, SXSWedu is the perfect place to find like-minded leaders and engaged community members working to improve education. In their own words, SXSWedu “fosters innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds in education.” The conference runs for four days with a myriad of speakers and workshops focused on optimizing schools for 21st-century challenges and opportunities.
The keynote presentation of the conference was given by Temple Grandin, an accomplished professional in the field of Animal Sciences who has been hugely influential in education thanks to her research into how different types of minds learn, and how different gifts are necessary to solve problems of modern society. Her message of inclusiveness and diversity was a key theme in the conference at large.
Professor Grandin grew up during a time when there was little known about autism. She faced tremendous obstacles as a child on the spectrum, and talked about how extracurricular classes were what led her to her successful career. “Art class was my salvation in elementary school. Carpentry and horses saved me in high school.” We couldn’t agree more that hands-on learning is hugely important to all types of learners, which is why we work with so many schools to fund field trips, art programs, garden projects and more. Watch Temple Grandin’s inspiring speech and learn about her work.
Another big theme from SXSWedu was the rising trend of entrepreneurialism in schools. From teacher-driven curriculum, to student-led fundraising, there has been a shift away from the old top-down, standardized paradigm to a more community-driven, customized approach. There were so many inspiring examples of children and young adults designing their own futures. Here are just a few examples:
- Student-designed schools: Project XQ is a nationwide effort to #ReThinkHighSchool by amplifying student voices. Over 8,000 students have submitted detailed designs for “reinventing” their high schools from a student perspective.
- Student-led learning was everywhere! We loved watching students use open-ended building tools like LittleBits.cc and the SteamTruck.org to learn problem-solving beyond lesson plans and text books.
- Student-powered funding: Our presentation at the conference shared stories of how student groups have leveraged Schoola to pay for programs that were otherwise at risk. The Associated Student Body at Joaquin Miller Middle in San Jose, CA raised money for their student-appointed Green Commissioner. Students at Grandview Elementary in Indiana wrote and produced a video to promote their clothing drive because they wanted the drive proceeds to fund several field trips.
It never ceases to amaze us what kids will do when they feel invested in the outcome. Dozens of students stopped by our photo booth to share what they felt was worth fighting for in their school, and we hope you will join too to by taking our #WhyISchoola challenge.
Students also provided entertainment throughout SXSWedu. We loved hearing musicians from all over central Texas share their talents, from traditional jazz ensembles to alternative rock.
After dark, the SXSWedu offered many film screenings, including an evening hosted by our partners at the Malala Fund. The film He Named Me Malala was shown to hundreds of attendees, followed by a lively discussion of Malala’s impact on girls across the globe.
Anyone eager to support their mission to ensure all students can access a safe, quality education can request a donation bag.
Megan’s favorite school memory is discovering a Peer Counseling program that helped her become a leader in her toughest year of grade-school – when she grew 11 inches in 12mos, and moved / changed schools as a 5’8” fifth-grader. Now she is a mom of two Bay Area babes, and spends the workweek helping more parents find and leverage Schoola to fund their school programs.