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Big Ideas Inspire PS 307 Students

An immersion into the entrepreneurial mindset, Big Idea Week kicked off Monday in DUMBO, challenging elementary school students to apply their STEM knowledge to develop creative solutions to problems in the world around them. Started last year through a partnership with the DUMBO Improvement District and DUMBO startup Flocabulary, Big Idea Week is a week-long, project-based curriculum aimed to introduce fourth grade students at Brooklyn’s P.S. 307 in Vinegar Hill to careers in New York’s growing tech sector and build a foundation of valuable skills, from critical thinking, to creativity, to collaboration. A new partnership with DUMBO-based startup Maker’s Row, who will prototype selected “big ideas” from the program, was also announced – starting with the creation of the Pillowket, invented by students in last year’s program.

“The question we ask is how do we expand, deepen and enrich the lives of these children. Big Idea Week enables them to look at the world through new eyes,” said Roberta Davenport, Principal at PS 307. “It gives them a sense of empowerment to make this world a better place.”

“We have all of these incredibly talented founders in our neighborhood who have jumped at the chance to help inspire the next generation of Brooklyn entrepreneurs,” said Alexandria Sica, Executive Director of the DUMBO Improvement District. “Giving these kids access to these innovators – like bringing last year’s SXSW Keynote speaker to a fourth grade class – is a pretty awesome opportunity. We’re building a whole community of innovators – age 10 on up.”

Big Idea Week began with a workshop led by Brooklyn-based innovators and company founders, who shared their stories about the entrepreneurial process – from problem, to idea, to product. Speakers included creator of Big Idea Week and CEO of Flocabulary, Alex Rappaport, Tina Roth Eisenberg of Tattly and swissmiss, Pensa founder Marco Perry, Biolite’s Anton Ljunggren, and JRSportBrief creator Julian Roberts. Each presenting company represents a tech-centric design, engineering, or content-creating enterprise, allowing the founders to model as real-life practitioners of the STEM subjects that students learn in school.

A prototype of the PillowKet, a combination pillow and blanket designed by last year’s Big Idea Week fifth grade participants Jaylin Francois, Angelina DiLone and Hannah Hamilton, also debuted at Monday’s program.

Throughout the week, students will work through lessons on brainstorming, technology and product design in their classrooms. After developing their own product ideas in groups, students will conclude the week by pitching their big ideas to the business leaders and other invited guests. Students will see tangible representation of their work in the classroom when several ideas are prototyped by Maker’s Row, and will also have the chance visit some of the entrepreneurs at their offices for tours and Q&A as a part of the program.

“This program is about developing critical thinking skills and exposing students to concepts from the STEM curriculum, but it’s also about something more fundamental,” said Alex Rappaport. “It’s about fostering a sense of confidence that can change the course of a student’s experience in the classroom and beyond.”

PS 307 was designated a federal Magnet STEM school in 2013, and will be incorporating cutting-edge curriculum to teach STEM standards through support from the grant. Big Idea Week is a part of this initiative and will be expanded in the 2014-2015 school year.

About Big Idea Week

Big Idea Week, now in its second year, started as a collaboration between the DUMBO Improvement District and Alex Rappaport, Co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based education company Flocabulary. With funding from the BID Challenge, a city initiative, Big Idea Week was developed to strengthen ties between DUMBO entrepreneurs and P.S. 307, a neighborhood elementary school.

Photo via Tory Williams.