The joy of discovery that emanates from watching and judging Follett Challenge entries is pretty unparalleled for anyone who cares about the state of American education. It’s truly inspiring to see how many schools and districts have dreamed up a unique program to get kids engaged and learning in new ways.
Watching any of the 113 videos submitted this year reminds you how innovation and dedication in helping kids develop 21st-century skills is alive and well in small rural schools, private schools, and big city districts, wealthy and struggling.
Watching the videos is a treat. You’re drawn in by the fresh faces and ebullience of youth, then you’re given the opportunity to experience what takes place inside these schools. As you watch, you quickly forget the teaching and learning of yesteryear, with desks in straight rows and bored children expected to remain quiet, sans for the occasional raised hand. Instead, you see interaction, collaboration, sharing, building, making—and the learning is often student led. This is an entirely different way to learn, and you see that each Follett Challenge entry is unique and exciting in its own way.
Take, for instance, the three recently named semifinalists, each of whom earned $30,000 in products and services in the Follett Challenge. These three entries gave our panel of judges the joy of discovery by illustrating innovation and creativity and sharing what that means to learning. The three semifinalists each submitted a written entry and a video, and were the agreed-upon winners based 80% on their written entry and 20% on the number of public votes received. Two judging panels named these schools as the semifinalists:
Elementary School Category
Bluebonnet Elementary and Park Glen Elementary, Keller Independent School District, Fort Worth, TX
Middle School Category
O’Neill Middle School, Downers Grove School District #58, Downers Grove, IL
High School Category
The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria, Astoria, NY
These three winners are all very different yet each has been deservedly rewarded for their innovation. Take a look at the videos linked above—you’ll be drawn into the stories, and the joy of discovery will hit you soon after. These educators are going beyond the lesson plan and getting away from the straight rows of desks to help tomorrow’s leaders learn the skills they’ll need to succeed.
On April 30, our judges will name one overall grand-prize winner. That program will earn an additional $30,000 prize in Follett products.