In this episode Eric Sanders says he started thinking about innovative education during a Creating Innovators book study. He says he was amazed at the incredible work students were doing; sometimes because of school, but often times in spite of school. Sanders says that’s when he began thinking about how he could create authentic learning experiences in his classroom.

An early experience trying Google’s Genius Hour ended in failure. Sanders says his students didn’t have enough time to work on passion projects, but he says he learned from failure that students need opportunities to fail and to not be afraid of it. He finds school is all about passing and succeeding and that learning from failure is not often an option.

That experience led Sanders to start an innovations class at Grand Forks Red River. Students work on concepts of things they can do for North Dakota by identifying a problem, brainstorming solutions, proposing and carrying out projects and finally reflecting upon the outcomes.

He’s also uses project-based learning in his junior English classes where students have done things like create a human rights museum centered around novels like Huck Finn.

Sanders has also asked his students how they could positively impact the public perception of Red River. That’s resulted in vetted projects, one which raised $6,000 for cancer research. Another developed a culture fair to bring a diverse student body together.

Sanders says Governor Burgum’s Innovation Summit was a game changer. He says he began to think about how much of school curriculum is test prep. He says he he believes a culture shift in school and at home. Instead of asking about grades, Sanders thinks we need to focus on skills like critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.

Finally, he says Ted Dintersmith’s film Most Likely to Succeed completely changed his views on education.

Ultimately, he says it all boils down to “seeing students do amazing things, things that they didn’t think they could ever accomplish, then giving them the audience that their work deserves.”



Cancer Walk video from project-based learning

Sexual assault video










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