Eli Neal, a junior, at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, is trying to help improve Idaho’s education system. On Thursday and Friday he joined 150 high school teens from 23 schools to brainstorm ideas on how to fix the education crises within 24 hours.
“I want to be part of progressive change with the education system,” Eli said. “I know we can’t solve the problem within 24 hours, but it’s the motivation to get started.”
Eli was part of the 24-Hour Think Challenge – a design thinking process for students to come up with what they believe is the best way to reimagine their own learning.
“I hope the community will listen to what students have to say,” said Simone Migliori, a senior at Boise High School and organizer of the event.“Student voice is such an important part of the conversation when we are talking about education and learning.”
Students were sequestered at CenturyLink Arena, and slept for only about six hours – on the seats in the stands. The teens worked in small groups all day and night to answer the question: How can we re-invent learning to be 21st century-relevant for Idaho students? About 20 local businesses were there to help support the teens throughout the challenge.
“Idaho doesn’t have good go-on rates and our test scores aren’t statistically high,” Eli said. “I want to open the discussion between students and lawmakers – this will explore the importance of raw passion.”
The Think Challenge included speeches from regional and national experts in areas of innovation, entrepreneurship, space design, project-based learning and the history of education.
“Students took the ideas from experts to come up with solutions on how to reimagine learning,” Simone said.
At the end of the challenge on Friday, students crafted their solutions and pitched their ideas in a TED-style event to entrepreneurs, lawmakers, stakeholders and the public.
“A lot of the suggested ideas the students had are starting to happen,” said Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett. “I was disappointed that parents weren’t brought up in the presentations. You have to be careful on how you change public education – it’s a large beast to change.”
Eli hopes one day that students, parents and legislatures can have a communication channel that will be open.
“I want to empower the student voice,” Eli said. “I would like to see two student representatives on the Idaho State Board of Education. Students would finally give policymakers the long overdue insight that they desperately need – our voice would be heard at the top.”
Disclosure: One Stone and Idaho Education News are supported by funding from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.