Fifty teachers and 1,600 students in Arizona public schools can try out a free new curriculum aimed at creating more entrepreneurs and creative problem-solvers as part of an Innovate Arizona program.
The curriculum is EdgeMakers Innovative Thinking course — designed to teach creativity, storytelling, design thinking, collaboration, and entrepreneurship — to students in grades 6-12. John Kao, a San Francisco-based global advisor on innovation, created EdgeMakers to inspire more innovators and entrepreneurs. Kao is a jazz pianist (who spent a summer playing keyboards for Frank Zappa) and a graduate of Yale Medical School and Harvard Business School.
“Innovate Arizona presents schools with a valuable opportunity to teach the ‘how-to’ of innovation and empower students to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs,” Kao, founder and chair of EdgeMakers Institute, said in a statement. “Students will develop core capacities such as creativity, design thinking, and collaboration in order to turn their ideas into true innovations that address some of the world’s most complex problems. These are the skills that are needed to fuel future economic growth in the state of Arizona.”
Innovate Arizona was launched with a grant from the Haury Trust to advance economic development in the state. EdgeMakers courses were recently approved as credit-bearing electives in California and Texas. Innovative Thinking is the foundational 60-hour course and can be offered over one semester or an entire school year. It was piloted by 400 students in Tucson during the 2017-18 school year.
Scott Weiler taught EdgeMakers’ Innovative Thinking course last year at Amphitheater Middle School in Tucson. He says his students “realized that being innovators was available to them and wasn’t limited to the rich or Silicon Valley types. They saw a connection with themselves to the innovators of history that we introduced to them.”
Kao believes EdgeMakers’ education programs supply the “missing ingredients” in formal education. Innovate Arizona also includes professional development for teachers.
Teachers who are interested in learning more can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Title I schools are prioritized, though teachers at any public or charter school in Arizona are invited to sign up a single class or multiple classes. The registration deadline was recently extended to July 25, 2018.