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Teen summit aims to build more creativity, curiosity in education

Sir Ken Robinson, international expert on education and creativity, is scheduled to kick off a conference for young people next month.
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Student Maddy Hooson, 13, gets a close look at her project from a 3-D printer, at the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry in Victoria. Many educators are questioning the effectiveness of traditional methods of passing along information.

Sir Ken Robinson, international expert on education and creativity, is scheduled to kick off a conference for young people next month.

Robinson, whose TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” has reportedly been one of the most viewed in history, will be lead speaker at the conference for 500 students, Grades 9 to 12, to be held Oct. 1-2 at an Ogden Point pier warehouse.

The Summit at the Pier is being organized by a number of agencies, most notably the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry, a Victoria school where young people learn by pursuing their own avenues of inquiry.

The conference, called an “unconference” by organizers, will be a chance for young people to gather inspiration, confidence and ideas to start following their own curiosity beyond their classrooms and schools.

“Learning happens anywhere and not just when you walk through a door where the word ‘school’ is written above it,” Jeff Hopkins, founder and principal of PSII, said in an interview.

Supporters of the unconference include the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria and Hothouse Marketing.

But for the unconference to call itself a success, the biggest possibilities and inspiration must come from the young people themselves. (Parents are not admitted unless they are facilitators.)

In a process Hopkins described as “herding a lot of cats very fast,” the students will be guided into discussions, subjects and areas where they can start collaborating with their peers.

Organizers believe that, with a little guidance, youth can develop a resilience to accompany their own innate creativity, a new bravery to forever revise their

own ways of thinking.

The idea is based on the notion the best way to prepare young people for their future is help them build appropriate skills and character traits.

Traditional ways of passing along information, then testing students to measure how much knowledge they have retained, is no longer seen as effective.

Hopkins has some good experience with traditional education. He was a teacher — Grades 8-12 for 20 years — a school principal and the superintendent for the Gulf Islands.

He is still careful to see that students at PSII learn the core curriculum necessary for high school graduation in B.C. But the time, place and even the topics, to some extent, are selected by the students.

For example, most recently it was the students who demanded a chance to learn about William Shakespeare. And they requested specifically to study

The Tempest, a play even Hopkins admits to finding difficult.

But one of the students had read some references to The Tempest and was curious. Other students asked to join in and a learning opportunity was born.

“So, looking at it as a professional teacher, it’s really a sliding-scale thing,” said Hopkins. “Sometimes, I’ll be here and I’ll be useless and sometimes I have to provide some guidance.”

Seventeen-year-old student Brianna Faith, aiming for business school at UVic, has already opened and operated a business, a downtown store selling cosmetics.

Faith earned a profit of about $10,000 and donated most of it to a women’s charity. She now plans on designing and selling her own line of wildly coloured lipstick, everything from yellow to blue to bright red — and not tested on animals.

“I love makeup and I love lipstick,” said Faith, who is also listed as a facilitator at the Summit at the Pier.

To learn more about the conference, go online to summitatthepier.com

rwatts@timescolonist.com