Working in Kent to Bring Innovation to Students in Brazil

Educators from across Brazil visited Kent State to explore creative innovations for their school systems

On May 15, a group of educators from Brazil arrived on the Kent Campus of Kent State University to begin a two-week program, designed to help them explore models of education in Northeast Ohio and determine how they might implement them in their schools and throughout Brazil’s network of educational institutions.

The program, called the American Academy Advanced Program included visits to leading educational institutions in Northeast Ohio with seminars, workshops and presentations in the Design Innovation (DI) Hub on Kent State’s Kent Campus.

"These are fantastic workshops for this group, relating to innovation in education," said Valerie Feagin, associate director International Partnerships and interim American Academy coordinator in Kent State’s Office of Global Education.

Workshops in the DI Hub

The Marist School Network

The visiting group of educators from the Marist School Network in Brazil was led by Silvana Taschek Hastreiter, Ph.D., academic coordinator, and Paulo Mussi Augusto, Ph.D., director of Kent State’s American Academy at Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil. The Marist Schools were a regional/diocese-based group of educations that is in the process of becoming a national/international network. The group of 15 attendees of this session consisted of elementary and secondary school teachers and administrators from different regions of Brazil.

Visiting local leaders in education

The first day of the program was spent on campus at Kent State and was followed by three travel days in which the group visited Akron’s Firestone High School, the I Promise School and LeBron James Family Foundation and Western Reserve Academy. On the last travel day, the educators visited Hawken Upper School, Hawken School and the Mastery School of Hawken.

Educators at Firestone Academy
Visit to I Promise School

Upon returning to Kent State, the group engaged with several entities on campus, including the Brain Health Research Institute (BHRI), The Education, Health and Human Services (EHHS) Research Center for Educational Technology, the Young Entrepreneurs Institute, the May 4 Visitors Center and the Kent State University Museum.

Some work and some play

Balancing work/study and play were prominent themes in the workshops and presentations, in addition to being part of the group’s learning activities and social itinerary for the week. As part of the workshops, the groups participated in exercises to discover “What’s Your Superpower?” and looked at educational models in which the teacher is "not the holder of the knowledge, but rather a mediator of knowledge."

Building a duck out of blocks exercise

After each day’s session there was a planned period of “creative leisure” that included visits to Cleveland, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Crocker Park and Aurora Farms Outlet shopping areas, Kent’s Craft Beer Festival and a hike in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Global Citizen presentation

Presenting possibilities

On the final day of the program, groups of participants presented their findings and takeaways from their workshops, campus tour and school visits. Presentation titles included “Who is the Global Citizen?” “A Meaningful School,” and “How to Create Enabling Conditions for Greater Student Engagement in Learning Experiences” with the latter being presented in the style of a TV talk show. Each presentation also included a video, created by the teams as part of their workshops.

Marist TV Show presentation
Marist TV Show presentation

The American Academy Advanced Program was the culmination of several years of hard work by Kent State administrators and faculty including Sally Kandel, Ph.D., project manager and former Kent State associate vice president for Academic Affairs Administration and Operations (retired). Valerie Feagin, associate director International Partnerships and interim American Academy coordinator in Kent State's American Academy and J.R. Campbell, executive director, Design Innovation Initiative.

After viewing the presentations, Kandel commented that she was inspired by the fact that the word “possible” was prominent in all the presentations. The presenting teams stated definitively that the innovations they were proposing were not only possible, that they were going to work to put them into practice when they returned to their schools.

We Are Family presenters

Augusto shared her sentiment in summarizing the program’s outcomes. “Our job is to make possible what is unlikely,” he said. “This is our challenge. We know what is possible and we have to make it happen.”

“We are preparing our students for the future and preparing a new future for our students,” Augusto said.

Congratulations, certificates and hugs

Campbell was the master of ceremonies for the day and had led the educators through all their on-campus activities and excursions off-campus. The Brazilian visitors greatly appreciated all that Campbell brought to the program and called him “our professor.”

After the presentations had concluded, Campbell played guitar and sang a song he wrote. He said, “In exchange for the stress of all of you having to present in English (and to share in that feeling with you), I’ll sing in front of the group.”

JR Campbell playing guitar

All of the participants were awarded certificates of completion for the program as “Design Innovation Change Agents.” Hugs were exchanged and participants shared their thoughts about the program in English and in Portuguese, with translation by others in the group. Participants also received a 3D-printed keychain, created in the DI Hub, inscribed with some of the messaging from the week’s exercises.

Presenting certificate and keychain

'Education should be messy'

With final thoughts for the day, Ricardo Mariz educational director of the Maris Network, addressed the group from Brazil through Microsoft Teams, in Portuguese as one of the attendees translated in English.

In congratulating the group on their completion of the program, he paraphrased a famous quote about education from noted Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire (1921-1997), who said that a child should learn in the same way they would eat a mango. It should be an immersive, fun and even messy experience as they bury their face into the mango, with juice and pulp and seeds running all over their face and running down their arms.

Educators with certificates
POSTED: Friday, May 26, 2023 09:03 AM
Updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2023 12:34 PM
Phil B. Soencksen