School is in session with innovation

Alex Wulff is passionate about teaching advancements in media and fabrication technologies.

by Amy Brown

The Ventura Education Partnership (VEP) recently held its first annual LAUNCH event at the Ventura Masonic Center. The program celebrated Ventura school district educators who have spearheaded a range of successful, innovative learning opportunities for students. “With the exponential rate of change today, life-long learning is no longer optional,” said Dave Armstrong, Vice President of Innovation for VEP and VUSD parent. “LAUNCH celebrates a few of Ventura’s many amazing teachers who are constantly learning and expanding education beyond the four walls of the classroom.” LAUNCH raises funds for VEPGrants, providing VUSD teachers with funding for unique and groundbreaking projects.

A large audience comprised of local business community and academic leaders were treated to a presentation that included three local Ventura educators who introduced their popular new academic projects. Poinsettia Elementary Principal Elisabeth Denger-Harris shared an inspiring overview of the successful Sensory Path launched at her school, designed to calm, encourage, and engage students throughout the day. The path winds throughout the school itself, and consists of brightly colored, interactive artwork that combines action, thought and play.

Kelly Herrera, AP Literature and AP Language teacher at Buena High, presented on her groundbreaking Teach Living Poets project, a movement that was created to bring livings poets into classrooms, via Skype and video, to make poetry more accessible and engaging.  “There’s no teachers’ manual,” said Hererra. “As we dive in, I’m diving in along with the students. It’s making me vulnerable with them, and getting out of my comfort zone makes me a stronger teacher, and our students deserve that.”

Students at DATA Middle School are finding cool new methods with which to engage in advanced design methodologies. Alex Wulff is a teacher and entrepreneur at DATA, and is passionate about teaching advancements in media and fabrication technologies. He spoke about Ventura’s non-profit student-led “STEMbassador” program, focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and how these students develop practical, standards-based curriculum for teachers to use for a variety of applied STEM technologies. These include CAD-based CNC-routers, laser engravers, and 3D printers—his points were amplified in real time while he spoke, as behind him a 3D printer made a small, detailed plastic frog. He was enthusiastic about the difference this program has been making in students’ academic lives. “Students started creating works of art, really, it hurt your heart, it was so beautiful,” said Wulff.

According to LAUNCH, following the event, which was videoed, the stories shared will live on to influence others, through social media. The plan is for the collection of videos to continue to grow over time to facilitate more peer to peer sharing, learning and collaboration.


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