If all students and staff were given 48 hours without academic or extra-curricular obligations, and had one simple task: “to create something which they are very passionate about”, how many outstanding projects could they come up with? This was the inspiration behind Do Something Cool (DSC), which commenced at ALA in December 2013 and which was recently featured on Ted Dintersmith’s Innovation Playlist, as a model for self-directed learning. Ted Dintersmith is an education innovator, author and documentary filmmaker whose book, Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era also highlights the ALA as an innovative institution.
DSC was established around a single purpose: that all entrepreneurial leaders should demonstrate the capacity for self-directed learning and creation. In Ted Dintersmith’s Most Likely to Succeed, ALA co-founder and CEO, Chris Bradford commented: “DSC creates a true community of learners and innovators, and is perhaps the most vibrant and exciting time on our campus. ALA students go into overdrive with creativity and passion, fuelled by the self-directed nature of the activity, and all staff members stop their work to run with their own DSC projects”.
Some of the most outstanding DSC projects created over the past four years include the invention of an evaporative cooling refrigerator made from charcoal by a team of students in 2014, and a set of murals of ALA’s founders using super-imposed images from the entire community, which currently hangs in the lobby at the ALA campus. Another inventive project was the writing and eventual publishing of a novella titled Tamu’s Purpose by a Zimbabwean Student, Keith Mundangepfupfu (’13).
One of the projects created at the last DSC, and featured in Dintersmith’s Innovation Playlist saw two students, Lisa Shehan (’18) from Ethiopia and Martin Lubowa (’18) from Tanzania undertake a chemical experiment to extract essential oils from citrus fruits. Others created an extensive origami using images of African cities on a project called “The Order of Chaos”, while ALA’s Writing & Rhetoric faculty recorded a podcast, among many other outstanding inventions.
As Chris Bradford said “When you give students a chance to create something big and audacious, they rise to the occasion. Kids are savvy enough to know how to access what they need to learn to pull off amazing things, and nothing builds their confidence like an authentic accomplishment. At ALA, we seek to empower our students with the capacity to learn how to learn throughout their lives, and to realize their capabilities to fulfil a meaningful purpose in life”. Watch the full video below, and find the post on Ted Dintersmith’s website here.