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EPHS Eagle Voice Update: Students Pitch Prototypes to Staff

After a highly successful student innovation event in the fall where a significant percentage of the 3,200 students at Eden Prairie High School participated in the campaign “What could we do to improve YOUR experience at EPHS?” Principal Robb Virgin knows that the top ideas are desirable...but will they be viable and feasible?

Principal Virgin and School Psychologist Meg Bennett recently sat down with staff writer Eden Teller from local news outlet SW Media for an online article titled, Student survey shows what teens would change at Eden Prairie High School. Now, they just have to do it.The survey, of course, is more than just a survey - it’s high-powered idea management software that allows participants to share ideas, socialize around them, and then vote through a unique comparative algorithm called Pairwise. In other words, it’s the InnovateK12 toolkit in action!

With over 60,000 votes logged in pairwise this winter, student leaders recently workshopped their top ideas and are getting ready to pitch their prototypes to staff. There were several small ideas that Virgin and the students were able to test without a Design Thinking workshop like clogged soap dispensers, a sign that had a word misspelled, and the high price of student parking spots, but the top two big ideas required more time and thought.

One of the big ideas focuses on creating a mental-health-inspired “day-off” from homework, allowing students to have a collective break from the daily pressures of academic stress. Another big idea focuses on a final exam schedule that avoids overloading exams on a single day. Both ideas, Virgin acknowledges, will require some level of staff support - thus the pitch session with Department Chairs.

In the SW Media article, Virgin shares the story of how he and Bennett brought in Design Thinking experts from Gener8tor and plan to test the top student ideas after Spring Break. There is excitement emerging from Eagle Voice and a culture that is shifting, and the students are starting to believe that change can happen.

The article quotes 11th-grader Payton West:

"It's working, that's the coolest part. We know where (the school's) flaws are now and how we can improve them.”

Bennett adds, “There's a shift in staff involvement and change when students are at the table," she said. She hopes the natural end point of the Eagle Voice project will be a school with "staff and students in equal consultation in how to make EPHS better.”

The pitch to Department Chairs is a critical point for the students’ ideas. Virgin knows that a key part of the change process is the students’ ability to empathize with staff and to co-design the final solutions, but change like this is never easy. And school culture tends to protect the status quo.

After the meeting with Department Chairs, the students will take their pitches to the full faculty with the hope of gaining some support for their prototypes after Spring Break. Good luck, Eagle Nation!