Dreaming About Learning at Festival of Ideas

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager 

Teach Them to Dream!

Black Sharpie on green index card. Simple enough, right? Yet those words are at the heart of success for students today and into the distant future.

Gigi Antoni, our Big Thought President and CEO, penned that phrase and immediately pinned it to the Big Thought booth Saturday morning, Feb. 20, 2016, at The Dallas Festival of Ideas: The United City. The crowd inside The Women’s Museum at Fair Park hovered around the Big Thought booth, which sat adjacent to the Commit! scorecard.

Big Thought and Commit! partnered for the booths, both of which contained information that examined the cause and effect study of preparing our students for postsecondary educational success. The Commit! 2015 scorecard revealed that as a community Dallas is making strides in preparing students for postsecondary educational achievement.

As of 2015, 16,300 more Dallas County students are now meeting the key postsecondary educational benchmarks as compared to 2011-2012. The largest increases were in Algebra I, and High School Graduation.

The activity at the Big Thought booth was continuous during the 8-hour day. Visitors included folks from the corporate world and non-profit partners, high school and college students, teachers, and general festival attendees. All of them took a passionate approach to the problem of preparing our kids for their educational future. The Big Thought bulletin board was filled with suggestions for change.

“We got lots of responses about bringing creativity back to the classroom,” says Torie Parsons, Big Thought Manager of Events, “about adjusting traditional classrooms, and catching up with the times.”

That open forum for exchanging ideas kept the festival vibrant. Antoni formed part of a 4-member panel led by moderator Byron Sanders that examined the topic “The Future of Education is Now: Remaking Learning Environments of the Future.” The other panelists were: José Adames, President, El Centro College; Ashley Bryan, Director of Planning and Special Projects, Dallas ISD; and Lisa Lovato, Principal, Dan D. Rogers Elementary School.

Antoni made a strong case for learning that’s connected to the real world, learning that focuses on life outside of the classroom, and learning that puts the emphasis on critical thinking. With the fact that kids spend only 25 percent of their time learning in schools, and the rest of the time learning out in the community, this is definitely a new world of education.

It’s time to personalize the learning, play to kids’ strengths, let them choose what they want to learn out of school. Let’s not treat them as they are exactly the same and take them through the same system.

Spoken word, poetry and prose are excellent forms of self-expression. They are personalized learning at its best. Which leads us to Big Thought’s final activity at The Festival of Ideas – a mini DaVerse Lounge show. DaVerse Lounge and Big Thought thank TACA, State Farm and the Dallas Mavericks for their generous support.

DaVerse Lounge creator Will Richey, accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Alejandro Perez, Jr. and visual artist David Rodriguez,. welcomed to the stage students from McKinney High School, Sam Houston High School in Arlington and Bryan Adams High School in Dallas. For about 50 minutes we heard deep explorations of race, love, self-esteem, identity, and family struggles.

The poetry was potent. The audience was attentive. The kids got to stand up onstage and share their talents with a captive audience. They are learning to dream.