Enrollment is open for the Engaged Classroom Certificate!

Enrollment is now open for the first and second courses of

The Engaged Classroom Certificate: Integrating Academics, Community, Culture & Creativity

PassageWorks has just published its own book about engaged teaching!
Second Course: Facilitating Creative & Mindful Thinking & Learning fall 2013 taught by Sara Webb Hiris. Enrollment closes Sept 18.
Third course: Creating Empowering Classrooms spring 2014 by Jefferson County Open School teacher, Jennifer Wisniewski. Registration information forthcoming.
This certificate is designed for P-12 educators of all subjects. All courses thoughtfully combine theory and practice, empowering educators to implement what they learn directly into the classroom. The certificate consists of three graduate level courses which may stand alone or go towards a master’s degree at CU Denver. All courses are offered in a low-residency format and tailored for working teachers’ schedules–online with in-person workshop days during the summer and weekends.

Many states have new academic standards and new educator effectiveness laws.  In Colorado the law, as well as the new standards, expects P-12 teachers to facilitate the development of 21st century skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, invention, collaboration and self-direction. The law also expects teachers to create a classroom environment that is respectful, creative, inclusive, engaging and culturally responsible. These are all admirable skills and attributes, but how do teachers authentically and mindfully facilitate all of this while teaching the curriculum?! The Engaged Classroom Certificate offers teachers skills and tools for doing just that—teaching the curriculum while facilitating an empowering, creative and engaging classroom environment…for students AND teachers.

Registration for the first course closes June 1st; registration for the second course closes Sept 18th.


The Life Cycle of a Great Idea

Local Denver art educator, Barth Quenzer, is exploring and defining the life cycle of a great idea with his elementary students at Brown International Academy. I invite you to reflect on your great ideas: How do they come about? Do you recognize them when they “arrive?” What do you do to help them grow and become great? What are the steps and stages that you go through and experience? Is there ever an endpoint to a great idea?

Please share your life cycles below.

And click here to watch (and vote for) Barth and his students in the 2013 Ignite Innovation Challenge.

Young-ha Kim: Be an artist, right now! | Video on TED.com

Young-ha Kim: Be an artist, right now! | Video on TED.com.

When kids start to lie, we should celebrate! It’s the beginning of storytelling…

“The ideal future I imagine is where we all have multiple identities, at least one of which is an artist.”

-Words of Young-ha Kim during this TED Talk

The Value of Play…and George W. Bush is a painter?!

My friend recently posted this article on Facebook. The author, Elizabeth Spiers, discusses the values of play, experimentation, and the act of creating things without worrying about the outcome. Spiers also discusses George W. Bush’s paintings. Who knew?!

Reading the article made me think of a class I taught last week at Metropolitan State University of Denver with pre-service, general education elementary teachers. The focus of the class was on imagination, creativity and play. We explored the questions, “What do we learn during play and how does what we learn connect to imagination and creativity…as well as teaching and learning?” Big questions that we only began to explore during this one hour and forty minutes.

To begin the discussion, I invited students to turn to their neighbors and reminisce about the good old days. What games did they play when they were young? How did they spend their free time? The room immediately began to buzz with laughter and stories (which is saying a lot as this was 8am on a Friday). I then asked them to change the lens of the conversation and discuss the question, “What did you learn while playing these games?” There was a pause, some confused looks, and then the room began to buzz again.

After a few minutes, I asked everyone to shout out what they learned while I recorded their answers for all to see on the whiteboard.

We then looked at my messy handwriting and all of the words associated with play. We noticed that what they learned while playing as 4 and 5 year olds are skills they need and use in the adult world everyday. As one student keenly put it, they are all life skills. Being married to a management consultant, I also noticed they are skills that could be the focus of any leadership or change-management seminar–skills such as: collaboration, communication, taking calculated risks, strategy, empathy, etc.

Pictures of this brainstorm are below. I invite you to look through the words. What do YOU SEE? What do the words make you THINK about? What do you WONDER or want to know more about? Please leave a comment below, playful, in process, or otherwise. -Sara

This thinking routine, SEE, THINK, WONDER, is from the Artful Thinking program out of Harvard’s Project Zero. Artful Thinking is an integral part of my thinking, courses and workshops.



The Engaged Classroom: Integrating Academics, Community, Culture and Creativity

Leading educators, Sara Webb Hiris, Laura Weaver & Mark Wilding of PassageWorks Institute, and Jennifer Wisniewski, in collaboration with CU Denver School of Education & Human Development, introduce the graduate certificate, The Engaged Classroom: Integrating Academics, Community, Culture and Creativity. This certificate begins June 2013 and is the first of its kind in its inter-disciplinary approach. The courses provide tools and approaches for educators of all subjects and age groups to create the classroom they and their students want and need–one that is rigorous, culturally responsive, mindful, creative and authentic.