A new venture designed to encourage more innovative ideas in education will make its debut at One Spark this year.
Created by Deborah Gianoulis, the president of the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership, #EDSPARK is the first themed venue to participate in One Spark. #EDSPARK, which will be located on the second floor of the Wells Fargo building, will house 46 education-related creators, making it one of the largest venues at One Spark. Creators will pitch their ideas in an attempt to receive money raised through local investors and crowdfunding.
“We have got creators all over the map. We have people who have written books. We have people who have developed games,” Gianoulis said. “We have people who have community collaborative projects.”
Since #EDSPARK is new to the One Spark scene, Gianoulis and her colleagues decided to keep an open mind and select education-related creators from all five categories of One Spark. #EDSPARK organizers wanted to capture every aspect of education in order to bring educators and students together in a collaborative environment to create entirely unique projects.
“There’s just a range of activities, a range of ideas,” Gianoulis said. “We are very excited by the variety that we found in education-related themes, both from students and also from adults.”
Carri Rehberg, a high school teacher at Bridge to Success Academy in Duval County, said she was excited to have her idea – The Road Trip Project – chosen for #EDSPARK. “It made me feel like my project was good enough and interesting enough to be accepted,” she said.
The Road Trip Project was created when Rehberg was driving to a state park shortly after her grandfather – a coast-to-coast traveler — passed away. She wanted a way to engage her students and teach them real-world applications, so she decided to have students plan an entire road trip from selecting a destination to deciding where they would eat and sleep.
Rehberg is hoping that #EDSPARK can help validate the usefulness of her project.
“I’m a one-woman show, so the main benefit for me presenting at #EDSPARK is that I’ve been given the chance to show my project to thousands of people all at once,” she explained, “so something that would take years to make known becomes known almost instantly.”
#EDSPARK was born during the 2013 One Spark Festival when Schultz Center employees ventured downtown to view participating creators present their innovative and imaginative ideas. Many of those projects revolved around education. They instantly noticed the opportunity to not only promote education, but also to bring the community together.
Indeed, #EDSPARK creators have already found that to be true.
“#EDSPARK allows for people outside of the school system to get involved,” said James Miller, a social studies teacher at Lavilla School of The Arts and the creator of Living History. Miller’s creation combines a cultural garden project, service learning projects, a video documentary and a troop of high schoolers who will teach history in an interactive, first-hand way.
Gianoulis said the type of community-creator interaction is just what #EDSPARK founders wanted.
“It was through going to One Spark that I think we recognized the potential that the early founders of OneSpark had really brought to our community,” Gianoulis said. “I was delighted with the idea of the festival, the energy, the innovation, the entrepreneurial spirit.”
The people who’ve thrown their support behind this unique venue are passionate about education and elevating learning for children and adults globally through innovation. That’s why the Schultz Center has decided to help fund a couple of the #EDSPARK creators following One Spark to help develop their creations further.
“Teachers are some of the most creative individuals in Jacksonville,” said Trey Csar, the president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. “We will be exhibiting the projects at One Spark and may partner with an investor to help support a project.”
The Jacksonville Public Education Fund will also be displaying PowerUP Jax at #EDSPARK. This is an online kickstarter for teachers that allows educators to post projects online for community members to crowdfund.
Adults are not the only creators to be featured at #EDSPARK. Sixteen-year-old Gloria Li, a high school student at Stanton College Preparatory School, will be presenting her idea, The Bottle Project, there.
The Bottle Project was created by Li, Selina Wang and Robin Zeng after they went on a community service trip to Forjandos Alas Youth Center in Costa Rica. There they saw people recycling plastic bottles to make trash cans and decided it would also be a great way to put all of America’s plastic bottles to good use. They brought the idea home to Jacksonville.
“The main benefit for us being in the #EDSPARK venue is spreading the word to the community about our project,” said Li, “and getting more people involved in recycling, so we can make even more recycled bottle trashcans.”
The main goal of many of the creators for #EDSPARK is to spread the word of their business or creation and get more people involved with their idea. #EDSPARK gives these education-related creators a place to not only spread their word, but also to build new relationships with other creators.
“We can see people as friends and not as competition,” said Blake Bennett, the creator of YouthQuake Live, another of this year’s #EDSPARK creators.
YouthQuake Live was originally invented by Shawn Yost as a way to give teens a place to have a blast on the first Friday night of every month. It flourished quickly and currently has about 3,000 people who attend each month for the dancing, music, food and other festivities.
At One Spark this year, YouthQuake Live is seeking $25,000 to help improve the quality of its shows and market the events.
“We are excited to be apart of #EDSPARK because, not only do we get a ton of exposure,” Bennett said, “but we get to make relationships with other creators and help each other out.”
Though sifting through the hundreds of One Spark creators was difficult, Gianoulis said. #EDSPARK has created a strong foundation for future One Spark festivals. She said the venue will be returning for many years to come to help raise education, learning and leadership, not only in Jacksonville, but also around the world.
This story was reported by Ignite Media, an independent news bureau created by University of North Florida students.