ING Unsung Heroes – Supporting Creativity

Over the past two days, I had the pleasure of meeting an inspiring group of educators and financial service providers.  Yep – you read right, financial service providers; I was attending the ING Advisor Insight meeting in Las Vegas.  The educators in the group were fellow award winners and members of ING’s Educator Advisory Board , the group that selects the winners for the ING Unsung Heroes award program.

You may still be wondering why I was there.  This fall I was amazed to learn that the Lighthouse Creativity Lab, our making program, won 3rd place in the Unsung Heroes program.  Around Thanksgiving I received a call from Randy James, the Chairman of the Unsung Heroes Award Program asking me to attend this conference so that I could talk with their staff about our design and making program.  One thing I found interesting is that all three of our projects involved significant making.Unsung Hero Nametag

The first place winner, Allison Butler, integrated her art curriculum with Physics.  The interesting thing is, since her students are attending a bio-medical magnet program, they weren’t expecting to take an art class.  She is using the concept of hard-fun to help her students see themselves not only as scientists, but as extremely capable artists.  She has students using mannequins and combining artistic media to study motion and using recycled books to create self-portraits and poetry.   With her award, she is planning to integrate photography and technology into the curriculum all with a focus on deepening her students’ understanding of art and physics.

Eric Songer, who won second place has been bringing the School of Rock mentality to his music classroom.  He asked himself how he could involve more students in music education and realized that giving students a choice of the genre of music would get more students interested in studying music.  His students are now performing in many student bands (garage band, mariachi, hip-hop to name a few) and producing the shows as well!  With his award, Eric has purchased musical equipment to create a more professional musical environment for his students to learn in.

With our funding, the Creativity Lab, is helping our elementary students learn to program.  We purchased Lego WeDo kits earlier this year and have started to use them in our 2nd grade class.  In fact, the same day I was giving a talk in Vegas, our 2nd graders were programming their Lego lions for the first time.


Building with Lego WeDo

Finally, it was a pleasure to meet the people behind the Unsung Heroes award. Education Advisory Board members are teachers or administrators who are extremely knowledgeable about education as they have spent their entire careers working to improve it.  It was also great to find that the group is really a family and it was extremely comfortable for us to join them over the two days and have discussions about education and about our lives outside of school.  Finally, it was also nice to hear from some of the ING folks.  With all the bad press the financial services sector has been receiving recently, it was refreshing to talk to people who clearly care about helping their customers plan for a comfortable retirement and who see the work teachers do as vital to our futures.Vegas1If you are interested in applying visit the ING Unsung Heroes information page!

About Aaron Vanderwerff

Aaron Vanderwerff is passionate about engaging students in making and independent inquiry in the classroom, particularly students underrepresented in STEM fields. Vanderwerff currently oversees design and making programs at Lighthouse, which includes coaching teachers and facilitating professional development. This effort came out of his making class, which culminates in students exhibiting their independent projects at the Maker Faire. Vanderwerff has taught high school science in the Bay Area for the past ten years. Before joining Lighthouse, he taught ninth-grade physics and was science department chair at San Lorenzo High School, and taught math in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso.