Nonprofit

No Right Brain Left Behind and Green Dot Schools

Over the past 12 years, Green Dot has grown from a single 9th grade class of 140 students in Inglewood to serve 10,300 at-risk students in 18 schools across Los Angeles, half of them turnarounds of LAUSD’s lowest-performing schools. 90% of students graduate with 76% going on to attend college. Green Dot’s dramatic expansion has been fueled by a commitment to ‘doing what it takes’ to break down the barriers that prevent students from thriving. Our first five schools were located throughout Los Angeles, with an emphasis on diverse neighborhoods that were underserved by traditional public schools. In 2012, those schools scored an average 764 on the Academic Performance Index (API), California’s primary measure of accountability; higher than both district and state averages. The schools are among the highest performing ‘minority’ schools in California.

In 2008, in collaboration with teachers and the community, Green Dot won control of Alain Leroy Locke High School, one of the lowest-achieving schools in the nation. Four years into the transformation, the Locke schools scored over 600 API compared to a pre-transformation score of 511. In 2010, Green Dot launched a new strategy to address the chronic attainment levels of incoming 9th graders through the opening of high-quality middle schools, two the result of a takeover of Henry Clay Middle School, ranked as the worst middle school in California. Concurrently, LAUSD invited us to take over David Starr Jordan High School, located in the heart of the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts. Early indicators suggest that students at these schools are already experiencing significant gains under the Green Dot model.

Joining Green Dot, No Right Brain Left Behind brings expertise in design-centered problem solving. NRBLB started a movement in 2011 that highlighted the wide-scale concerns for the country’s creativity crisis and the desire to find solutions. During a seven day innovation challenge, NRBLB asked the best in the creative industries to develop ‘creativity generators’ to be used in the classroom. Renowned innovators and experts including Sir Ken Robinson, Yves Behar, Daniel Pink, Deepak Chopra, and Scott Belsky joined the cause. Over 150 world-class companies such as Frog Design, BBDO, Wolff Olins, and Saatchi&Saatchi developed over 300 concepts. The winning concept received in-company funding to bring their concept to action.

NRBLB has been awarded accolades by Core77Design and The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce; presented at events such as TEDx, Art Directors Club, and LiveWire; and been featured in FastCompany, GOOD Magazine, Core77, BrainPickings, Design Mind, and Art Rebels. To date, NRBLB has built a strong coalition of companies, design schools, education networks, and creative professionals able to develop scalable, low-cost, and adoptable innovation tools that enhance creativity inside and outside of classrooms.

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1 Submitted Idea

  • 2013 Grants Challenge

    The Salamander Project: Redesigning Creativity in Education

    The Salamander Project will repair and regenerate the missing element of public education: creativity. The project will model a 21st century classroom through transforming a neglected library at Locke High School into an Innovation Space while developing the HackerSpace in a Box ‘Creativity Generator’ to foster students’ exploration, critical thinking, and collaborative problem solving.

    "What will public education in Los Angeles look like in 2050?” If the current system remains as resistant to meaningful reform as it has for the past half century, then 50% of our city’s ninth graders will fail to graduate with a worthwhile diploma and face a lifetime of limited opportunities. For anybody who cares about the future of the city, the question should be two-fold “What do we want Los Angeles to look like in 2050? How do we need public education to transform to get us there?”

    Public education must accept that a model developed to meet the needs of a nineteenth century manufacturing-based economy is no longer viable in the 21st century. It must evolve to meet the needs of an economy shifting to creativity and invention in almost every field, from medicine and manufacturing to agriculture and politics. Public education is doing little to prepare students for such an environment.

    The Salamander Project addresses two challenges to such an evolution. Firstly it considers the future of the school library. The school library has declined in importance and its relevance called into question. Many new schools are built without libraries. Many existing libraries are unused anachronisms: forgotten and neglected spaces filled with outdated books. The Salamander Project will redefine the purpose of such ‘dead space’ and adapt it to the evolving needs of schools, students, and teachers.

    Secondly, the project explores how to inject, or seed, creativity in the classroom through the development of ‘Creativity Generators’ such as HackerSpace in a Box. The last few years have seen an explosion in the digital education marketplace. Hundreds of companies are developing innovative new classroom applications of technology. However, the industry is still in its early stages, with little appreciation for the challenges of wide scale adoption. Many teachers, even forward thinking early-adopters, struggle to understand how such innovations can be realistically incorporated into their schools. The Salamander Project will provide teachers with the opportunity to explore and pilot a new education tool— HackerSpace in a Box— that inspires creative thinking processes within a collaborative, project-based learning environment that will model a realistic vision of a 21st century education.

    The project comprises two distinct phases:

    PHASE 1 Through a week-long series of innovation workshops, two groups comprising visionary thought-leaders in the education and design fields will address two key questions: 1) How to build the ultimate “creativity generator” and ‘seed’ creativity within the learning environment; and 2) How to create a physical space that encourages collaboration and creative problem solving.

    No Right Brain Left Behind will, along with their partners, Sparkling Science, will further develop an innovative digital learning tool and creativity generator called HackerSpace in a Box. Currently, HackerSpace is comprised of an Arduino-based circuit board called the Makey Makey, electro-conductive paint, and copper tape. This open source creativity kit enables students to create customized computer interfaces from elements in their surroundings by connecting electro-conductive objects and surfaces to the circuit board. Currently, HackerSpace requires facilitated workshops with teachers and students before it can be implemented in the classroom. In order to increase adoptability, No Right Brain Left Behind will redesign the experience to enable ease of use for teachers as well as students, and start developing a comprehensive curriculum. Meanwhile, a group led by The Third Teacher+, an educational design agency, will consider the conversion of the school library at Green Dot’s Locke High School into an Innovation Space and produce a comprehensive design brief.

    PHASE TWO From June to August, the design brief will be developed into an interior design for the remodeling of the library into an Innovation Space. Concurrently, No Right Brain Left Behind will develop the next generation HackerSpace in a Box and associated curricula and lesson plans. Remodeling will take place in July. Teachers will be trained in the Innovation Space in August. From September to December, Green Dot will pilot the next-generation HackerSpace in a Box within the Innovation Space throughout the semester. Education specialists from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and USC’s Rossier School of Education will observe lessons and provide feedback.