Welcome back to My Ivy Education! We've been toiling through the summer running our Summer Invention Camp, which just wrapped up last Saturday with a Shark Tank simulation and cups of camp-made ice cream (no liquid nitrogen necessary) for all. Over the course of the six weeks Invention Camp ran for, we couldn't help but see it as emblematic of our mission at large.
During each session at our campus in Summit, New Jersey, our campers participated in a 50-minute online webinar taught by a professor of gifted education, where they learned about critical thinking and problem-solving techniques with names like Bloom's Taxonomy and SCAMPER. Before and after they got on their computers, they worked together to innovate, brainstorm, and prototype their own ideas for inventions, from a design for a spherical car outfitted with bulletproof glass and a gyroscope (think Jurassic World) to a virtual keyboard that can be projected onto any surface.
They had five minutes to successfully collaborate on a mechanism to protect a raw egg dropped from dizzying heights, given a piece of cardboard, some Q-tips, a plastic bag, and three strips of tape. They laughed, shrugged, and pantomimed at one another when seated across from each other while participating in their online seminar from a teacher living all the way across the country. They learned about scientific research and soft skills from Guest Speaker Natalia Orlovsky, Winner of $175,000 in the 2018 Regeneron (formerly Intel) Science Talent Search.
None of this would have been possible with solely the online or the in-real-life portion of Invention Camp 2018. Instead of sacrificing theory for practice or vice versa, for six Saturdays, our campers lived - and, based on their own testimony, extremely enjoyed - the online-offline experience that is characteristic of My Ivy Education. They proved to us and to themselves what middle school-aged kids can accomplish without barriers or obstacles. The combination of virtual webinar and physical tinkering and companionship meant that they didn't have to make a single sacrifice on the path to learning. They didn't need to choose between learning from experts in their fields or working together at a physical campus. They didn't need to prioritize academic rigor over high-level collaboration in their own areas of interest.
We're almost in the 2020s, and the days of the Internet as a novelty are long gone. For any given student's combination of learning style, passions, and grade level in a particular subject (which may differ from subject to subject), it is almost guaranteed that there is an online curriculum that caters to that student's exact needs and desires, without having to winnow through a limited selection of in-town tutors or rely on the local public or private schools, which may not have the resources to acknowledge and treat that student as an individual.
At the same time, peer companionship is an indisputable necessity throughout every stage of childhood. Students can inspire and help one another to learn - but only when guided to do so through intentional social-emotional learning, community building, and collaboration. When both online and offline learning are tailored to each individual student's needs as well as the needs of the community, it's a match made in heaven.
What's your favorite learning environment? Let us know in the comments below!