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Introducing... the Roosevelt Innovation Academy

By Corey Topf

Schools around the world are rethinking education in the age of Google. We are trying eagerly to figure out how to make learning more relevant, more engaging, and far more personalized for all of our students. The American School of Lima, Peru is no exception.
We have spent more than a year researching best practices, studying progressive schools around the world, and attending conferences like Innovate 2013 in Sao Paulo, and the Association of American Schools in South America (AASSA) Educator’s Conference in Buenos Aires.
From everything we have learned, we have developed an exciting new program at our school that will empower our students to take control of their own learning.
Our Innovation Academy is a rigorous program for high school juniors and seniors that 1) fosters collaboration with people inside and outside of our school, 2) engages students in relevant, real-world projects, and 3) nurtures creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
To make all of this work, we have had to rethink the fragmented nature of traditional high school classes. Rather than students taking six or seven separate courses, we are combining four of them on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. These subjects—English Honors, Advanced Media Literacy, Global Business Management, and the Innovative Independent Project—will not be taught in isolation. Students will do real projects for real audiences, and in the process learn about how media, language and business are intertwined.
We will learn about marketing by working with advertising companies here in Lima. We will learn about finance through microcredit lending. And at every step of the way, we will learn how vital media and language are to each project and to all aspects of our lives.
The academy will be facilitated by one teacher throughout the day, and the cohort of 14 students will remain the same as well. This will allow for continuous, formative feedback and foster genuine collaboration inside the classroom. It will also free us up to do internships with professionals around Lima, work with experts around the globe, and take online university courses as well.
After our first meeting last May, students immediately started reading business books on their own, tweeting about innovation in education, and even purchasing their own domain names through so they can build their online portfolios. One student has even started researching how to create logos, along with the impacts of certain colors, and has designing the logo for our academy—none of which is being done for a grade!
We are hoping to present at the AASSA conference in Sao Paulo to show how relevance motivates students far more than any exam or letter grade. And we have been contacted recently by several schools who are interested in setting up their own Innovation Academies in 2014.
Mr. Topf is Innovation Academy Coordinator; reach him at here, or visit

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