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Forward Thinking

The Steward School
Faculty workshops focus on the future. 
What do mindfulness, “Star Trek,” and data visualization have in common? All were part of Bryan Innovation Lab Week, in which Steward faculty were invited to learn new skills and exchange ideas as they prepped for the upcoming school year. With a theme of “Imagine the Future,” Bryan Innovation Lab Week took a deep dive into the evolution of technology and its influence on society and education. Participants came away inspired by fresh ideas for the classroom. 

As the School gears up to celebrate its 50th anniversary, “Imagine the Future” was “a theme within a theme,” explained Megan Young, Bryan Lab program coordinator. “We gained insight into how technology has affected our world over the past half-century and brainstormed about how to conscientiously use technology in the future.” Ms. Young teamed up with Middle School Science Teacher Claire Bailey, Innovation Specialist Suzanne Casey, and Bryan Lab Dean Brad Kovach to plan the three-day event.
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Mindfulness + Sci-Fi
Participants began each morning with mindfulness exercises: yoga, meditation, or nature journaling — techniques they can share with their students to foster peaceful learning spaces. In addition, invited speakers shared their expertise with the group. Ed Cook, professor of analytics and data science at the University of Richmond, talked about the value of data science and analytics and how these fields, mixed with artificial intelligence and machine learning, have the potential to change the way we do things. Karla Mossi (parent of Dante Mossi ’26), professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering at VCU, presented a fascinating overview of technology through the years, illustrating how much of today’s technology — from cell phones to robots — was featured decades ago in sci-fi favorites such as “Star Trek” and “The Jetsons.” 

From Data to Design 
For a hands-on activity, Ms. Young drew on a year-long project in which two women living on opposite sides of the Atlantic measured data about their lives. Each week, the women doodled “visual portraits” of everyday occurrences on postcards: how many times they smiled, for example, or the number of doors they noticed; then they mailed the postcards to each other. What started as a pen-pal hobby turned into “Dear Data,” a colorful, insightful book.

Referring to the book’s illustrations, Ms. Young stressed “the importance of noticing” — living in the present — and tasked the workshoppers with making “visual portraits” of their personalities and teaching styles. Using markers, art supplies, and wooden forms created on the Bryan Lab’s Glowforge laser printer, participants got creative and had fun. They used Makey Makey (an invention kit designed to connect everyday objects to computer keys), block coding, and basic circuitry to make their portraits interactive with light and sound. As a result, teachers deepened their understanding of modern-knowledge skills such as design thinking, systems thinking, coding, and making. 

“Students from Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12 learn these same modern-knowledge skills throughout their tenure at Steward,” said Ms. Young, who noted that teachers teamed up at the end of Bryan Innovation Lab Week to reflect on curriculum integration. “It’s exciting to think about what the future holds for our Spartans!” 
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