Sparks! Innovation Showcase started as a free monthly series for educators and education enthusiasts. Each month, educators and members of the community gather to learn and feature a new idea, innovative practice or celebrate an “intrepid educator innovator” in our midst! They share ideas, frustrations, challenges and breakthroughs.

What’s “innovative”? Anything you do to creatively reach students, solve problems, or push boundaries to advance your practice or enhance learning. And with Sparks! we hope to spark your imagination.

Here are some highlights from our previous sessions:


“Drawing Jam” for Educators, March 31st, 2016:

We were joined by artist & UW educator Angela Richardson for a Drawing Jam to discover your inner creativity and celebrate the closing of Lynda Barry’s exhibit Drawing Fast and Slow: The Compbook Art of Lynda Barry.

Richardson, a former TA and student of Ms. Barry’s, led the group in delightful free-form drawing prompts that unleash the creative potential in every educator. This event helped us discover a deeper understanding of how we can nurture creativity in our practice and will feature fun networking, discussion and sharing.

Those who came were prepared to have fun by drawing collaboratively, cumulatively and sequentially and according to Barry, “strip away the stiffness of adulthood.”

Amplifying Wonder: Digital Media meets Real World Learning, April 13th, 2016:

Field Day Lab liked to “make awesome stuff with teachers.” Field Day Lab Program Director David Gagnon to explored how to engage your students in the space where digital media meets real world learning.

We took a cue from commercial game and social media, extracting principles of learning science hidden right under our noses! Through a series of demos, stories and hands-on activities (bring your mobile devices!), we experimented with a range of educational media developed by Field Day that engages learners through play and making.

Dance to the Music! Science of Dance Party and Tour, May 7th, 2016:

We kept in step with Innovation during an Educators-only behind-the-scenes tour!

Dancing a little and learning a lot, we identified resources and inroads to broaden our science learning ecosystem. We explored interactive science station ideas for the classroom and learned about opportunities to collaborate with researchers. Educator Travis Tangen led the hands-on exploration on the science of music and movement, as well as a behind the scenes tour of Teacher Discovery Outreach Programs and the Discovery Building.

Growing Curious Minds: Innovating in the Outdoor Classroom, May 12th, 2016:

What might happen if your class spent one day of each week… outside?

We found out from a lively discussion and tour of the Lincoln Outdoor Classroom with educators Josie Guiney and Jen Greenwald from Lincoln and Muir Elementary Schools in Madison.

At an after school gathering at Lincoln Elementary School Outdoor Classroom in Madison we discussed the opportunities, successes and struggles of innovating in the outdoors. How did these educators do it and why does it work? What can their experience mean for you in your District? What best practices and ideas can we all share to support this practice in the region?

Passionate Learners: Innovations for Engaging & Empowering Students, May 19th, 2016:

We were joined by award-winning teacher, author and innovator, Pernille Ripp, as she shared her story of how she learned to ‘break the rules’, build her confidence, and shape a learning environment that engages and empowers students.

Pernille is a middle school teacher at the Oregon School District, educational blogger (Blogging through the Fourth Dimension), and creator of “Global Read Aloud”-a global reading project that has connected more than 1 million students on 6 continents. Her work has been featured by Edutopia, Education Week, School Library Journal, MiddleWeb, and Learning & Leading Magazine.

Blackout Poetry, May 26th, 2016:

Your new innovative tool for fostering creative writing and discovery is in black & white, and is right before your eyes!

At the Madison Public Central Library’s “Bubbler”, we were joined by award-winning educator Laura Damon-Moore as she lead us on an exploration of Austin Kleon’s popular “Newspaper Blackout Poetry”.

Blackout poetry is an innovative technique used throughout the country as a way to foster insight, innovation and creative expression. We’ll investigated how to use popular social media tools to inspire and share our creations with others!

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