1. What is e.school?

e.school is Girls Innovate!’s project, beginning fall 2015, in which we engage members of the community in a creative process around learning.

2. What type of learning?

Learning that incorporates best practices for educating young minds.

From our experiences so far (organizing and hosting learning events and workshops for girls; raising our kids; dialoguing with other parents and students; and delving into current literature and research on education and learning needs/styles), we have developed a belief that the best practices are integrated and experiential; they mimic the ways of nature (thriving, sustainable ecosystems); and they reflect a tribe-like community, in which young and old have a part to play in all that makes an ecosystem strong and healthy. In such an environment, everyone – whatever age, background, biological or neurological makeup – is valued and nurtured, and the group fills in the gaps where needed to support every child to grow up to be strong and contribute to the well-being of the whole.

An integrated and experiential approach means that the skills and knowledge desired to be imparted are integrated into the learning, which is itself part storytelling (learning through others’ stories) and part experiential (learning by doing). Students (a) are exposed to the personal stories of others who can provide context, perspective and inspiration; (b) embark on a self-journey of knowledge acquisition, hands-on collaborative creation, and intuitive/reflective expression; (c) lead and learn by example; and (d) are supported by caring, open-minded adults who transfer what they know and serve as live role models.

Everyone will not learn all the same things, but the same essential things. The essential things are along the lines of:

  • I am cared for.
  • I can learn.
  • My learning is important.
  • My contribution is important.
  • I can challenge myself to be brave.
  • I can learn by doing and failing.
  • I can be curious, poke around and ask lots of questions.
  • People are interesting.
  • Valuing and learning from people is critical to my learning.
  • I am in charge of my learning.
  • A learning mindset will help me grow into the person I want to be.

3. Why the creative process and what is it?

A creative process is a journey of exploring, making and creating that helps you (a) uncover new and/or unique insights, (b) reveal these insights for the world to see through your personal expression of it, and (c) engage others with you around that expression.

We would like to engage everyone on a creative process around learning because we believe that it will lead to better learning outcomes – the ones that serve the future of all our young people and the greater world. Current learning outcomes do not do that.

By experiencing the learning described above as a creative process, we all get to author a dynamic research, design and creation process. With each iteration of the process, we will use what we learn and produce better and better processes and results. For those who engage now, the messiness will be greatest, but hopefully so will be the rewards. The process itself is a deep learning experience.

4. Is this process scientifically proven?

Not that we know of. However, if you look at the works of people in society whom we deem “creative,” you will see that this is how they achieved their works of art that ended up transforming lives. There was never an exact formula or recipe for how they would get there; creativity has no formula. But there was usually some source of inspiration, some insight, that provoked them, and, relying on some techniques or tools or technology, they hacked away at their creation, until one day it emerges, takes shape in our minds, and transforms us.

We believe that to get at a new model for learning, we need to approach it in this way – with what you may call a more human approach based on what we intuitively know to be right. By “intuitively,” we mean all our collective knowledge and wisdom which we absorb, digest and file away in our minds. Here, we finally get to release them in a relevant, meaningful setting through dynamic engagement with young people.

On this point, we also want to share our belief that this process strives to be open and equitable. It seeks to allow everyone who can embrace the point of view to participate. The most important elements of this point of view are humility, compassion, courage and curiosity. With these as pillars, you can contribute to all sorts of creative endeavors.

5. What’s next?

The creative process around learning for this year includes:

  • Startup Series 2016: a program for girls, ages 11 to 15 or so (7-10th grades) focusing on entrepreneurial thinking.
  • XQ/The Super School Project: XQ is a call for proposals to re-invent our school system; Girls Innovate! will gather a team consisting of community members to develop and submit a proposal.

6. Startup Series 2015-16

Startup Series is a series of workshops to help girls develop entrepreneurial thinking. Each workshop is 3 hours long. During that time, girls receive 10 minutes of content learning at a time, followed by group discussion with a mentor, group work to develop and build on their concepts, and presentation to 2 or 3 other teams. This process repeats. Before the workshop ends, each team presents their progress to everyone.

These workshops will begin in late November/early December with an Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Mindset. The guest speaker for this workshop will be Kirsty Nathoo, CFO & Partner at Y Combinator.

In January, we will continue with 3-5 more workshops, concluding with a final presentation/pitch in early May.

Prior to the workshops, girls will be introduced to the concept of context and perspective.

Context and perspective is the idea that, in order to come up with a problem to solve, you need to broaden your understanding of what is going on in the world; and, in order to find a solution to a problem, you need to be able to see the world from the point of view of others, in particular those for whom you intend to support with your solution. When we talked above about creative people who started out not with a formula but with some source of inspiration, some insight, that provoked them, we were talking about context and perspective. Where did those sources of inspiration and insights come from?

Context and Perspective

Two events this fall will introduce context and perspective through storytelling.

  1. Brunch with Environmental Educator/Documentary Filmmaker Miho Aida on Sunday, October 25, 2015
  2. Visit to the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco on Saturday, November 14, 2015

At both these events, girls will be introduced to the idea of how context and perspective are valuable for creative endeavors, including the development of innovative ideas and products which is essentially the work of entrepreneurs. Our hope is that girls will come away with some inspiration and insights after hearing about the environmental and documentary work of Miho; the teaching and photography work of Julie; and the paintings and drawings of the artists on exhibit at the de Young. These are just a few examples of how one can gain context and perspective through a more dynamic approach (instead of, say, reading about “how to develop perspective” in a book).

Girls who attend the above two events will have the opportunity to sign up for the first Startup Series workshop – Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Mindset. More about this event will be posted shortly, along with details about the Startup Series.

7. XQ Super School Project

XQ Super School is a national movement to reimagine high school, announced in mid-September 2015 by Laurene Powell Jobs. It calls for Americans to come together and self-assemble teams committed to building the next American high school together. Initial submissions are due November 15, 2015.

Girls Innovate! will pull together a team consisting of community members. Our primary goal is to utilize this as a vehicle for gathering community voices and producing a proposal that reflects our beliefs about learning, shaped and refined through dialogue with others in the community. We will use the XQ application questions as the basis for dialogue.

At this time, our tentative meeting schedule is as follows:

  • every other Wednesday, beginning October 14, from 12-1:30pm (Palo Alto)
  • every other Tuesday, beginning October 13, from 1-3pm (Orinda)
  • every other Friday, beginning October 16, from 10-11:30am (Cupertino)
  • for students – certain Sunday afternoons, to be specified (via Google Hangout)

You can join via Google Hangout if you cannot join in person.