How Innovation and Boarding Schools Go Hand-in-Hand

What do boarding schools and marshmallow-powered jetpacks have in common? Resources and innovation. Just ask Fessenden alumnus Charlie Schlager, a self-proclaimed tinkerer.

As a child, Charlie liked to take things apart to see how they worked. And, as much as he liked to break things, he was driven to create. “I wanted to build things, and I’d have these elaborate ideas, like marshmallow-powered jetpacks,” he laughs.

At a boarding school, Charlie found that he was only hindered by the limits of his own imagination. He explains, “I’m not sure that any regular school could make those childhood dreams come true.” But with the help of resources that are often found at private boarding schools, such as Fessenden’s Ciongoli Center for Innovation, he realized that the sky was the limit.

Inspired by the School’s commitment to 21st century education, and with the help of dedicated programming and robotics instructors, Charlie said, “Maybe I wasn’t able to make a jetpack powered by marshmallows, but I could still make innovative things nonetheless.”

In his case, a jetpack became a dodecahedron speaker that he made from scratch. While building the 12-sided speaker, Charlie learned how to solder, he learned about circuits, he mastered software used to 3D print materials, and he experimented with various amplifiers and amplifications. Of the project, he stated, “I didn’t view it as something that I wanted to be cool. I looked at what I would be learning along the way.”

While this type of metacognitive awareness may seem rare for a middle school-aged student, it is a common outcome of a shifting educational landscape. Despite outdated stereotypes of uniforms, dusty chalkboards, and strict student schedules, boarding schools are leading the way when it comes to innovation. Unlike public schools, which are often limited by state budgets, standardized tests, and outdated curricula, many boarding and independent schools are able to offer students state-of-the-art resources paired with creative, flexible schedules. As a result, students like Charlie are better able to tap into their innovative spirits and set out on an intellectual path to success.

Check out Fessenden’s Ciongoli Center for Innovation on Twitter and learn about the inspiring projects and learning that are currently happening in that space.

What pedagogical trends or shifts do you believe are making a difference in classrooms today? Tell us in the comments section.

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