I love being an uncle, and I have the coolest nieces and nephews on the earth. They teach me so much about life and school and learning and teachers. I have learned their homework hacks, tried to keep up with them on not-for-old-people social media, and scooby-dooed their approaches to problem solving.

I remember when they were little kids opening gifts. They got awesome gifts (because I was in “awesome uncle” training), but it didn’t take me long to realize they loved the box as much – or more – than the gift. Have you ever watched a kid play with a box? Why is there so much joy in a simple box? If the good stuff is in the box, why are kids so fascinated with the boxes? Eventually, I learned to give them boxes filled with office supplies – tape, staplers, scissors, sticky notes, and labels. Then I sat back and watched them create. And did they create some amazing things!

When I was an elementary teacher, I learned to save toilet tissues rolls – lots of them. I used them as math manipulatives and microphones for reading, in social studies projects, and as aids to teaching scientific concepts. They can be used for almost anything!

Boxes and toilet tissue rolls. The magic isn’t in the cardboard, but rather in the creativity of the learner who dreams up a cool way to use it – those who imagine, who create, and who take risks. In our world of education, we live in a resource-rich environment; what we don’t have, we can find on the internet. But maybe, just maybe, the best resource isn’t what comes in the box, but the box itself. What can we learn from kids?

  • A few, simple resources that can be used lots of different ways are often better than those that tire out after one or two uses.
  • When kids (or teachers or principals or assistant superintendents) use simple tools, they can build complex structures and use complex thinking.
  • The real resource is not the box or the toilet tissue roll. Rather, it is the one who dreams up new ideas, who imagines, who inspires, and who takes risks.

The educators who inspire me the most are the ones who take simple concepts and get their kids and teachers to think – to imagine, to inspire, and to take risks. Are you one of those people? Do you want to learn with or from them? Join us!

What: 2017 think! conference – dream
Why: You like learning with other risk-taking educators
When: November 30 and December 1
Where: Cedar Creek (between Austin and Bastrop) at the super-cool Lost Pines Resort
Who: Hundreds of awesome educators
How: Register at http://lead4ward.com/think/

-ervin