Welcome To Fair Haven Innovates

Welcome To Fair Haven Innovates

What a wild summer. I took a break from blogging because my summer has been jammed packed. I started out by going to ISTE in Chicago. After I got back, I went on my honeymoon in St. Lucia. Then, it was back to Chicago for the amazing Our Voice Academy. A week later I flew cross country to Seattle to help run Picademy for over a hundred educators and in two days, I’ll by flying to Moscow for the EdCrunch forum where I’ll talk about Gamification and Fair Haven Innovates. Oh, and I also wrote a book on teaching through entrepreneurship that will be published through EduMatch by Christmas. But with the start of a new school year, I’m back to blogging.

Hello. I missed you. Let's go.

Going into the second full year of running Fair Haven Innovates, one of my goals this year is to help parents better understand why a class like Fair Haven Innovates is important and let them know how they can help their children get the most out of my class. Below is a letter and video I’ll be sending home to parents. The video introduces my program and what students will be learning while the letter lets parents know why I made Fair Haven Innovates and how I run the program. I encourage everyone: send home a video and letter before school starts or before back to school night so everyone can be on the same page when it comes to the learning taking place in your classroom. This goes doubly so if you run an innovative program or are an innovative teacher disrupting education. People can’t always imagine learning in a classroom that they didn’t grow up in. Let parents know what you do and why you do it. Here’s mine:


Our students are growing up in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Thanks to automation, the workforce of your kids’ future is going to look a lot different than it does today. Studies and experts say anywhere between 30% and 60% of jobs that are around today won’t be around by 2030. The jobs most likely to be automated are the jobs that require predictable patterns of activity or repetitive actions. Jobs in fields like transportation, logistics, and administration are the most at risk of going extinct by 2030. 2030 may seem far off, but it is not. The class of 2030 is in second grade this year.

Don’t worry, though. The reality is that technology replaces jobs, not work. There will still be plenty of jobs for our students in fields that can’t be automated. Fields that require creativity, problem solving, and relationships such as most health and wellness fields, STEAM fields, and (thankfully) educational fields may look different, but are ultimately safe. The careers lost to automation will be replaced by emerging jobs or jobs that don’t even exist yet.

So how do we prepare students for this evolving future? Skills.

Fair Haven Innovates is Fair Haven school district’s 21st century life, innovation, and technology program. In FH Innovates, students are exposed to computer science, engineering, and the digital arts through entrepreneurship. Not only is entrepreneurship safe from automation, it is the best vehicle for delivering the problem-solving opportunities that our students need to hone their skills.

In Fair Haven Innovates, I use entrepreneurship to grow the five key skills our students will need to be successful:

  • The ability to use a creative problem-solving process to solve complex challenges.
  • The ability to set appropriate goals for oneself and team.
  • The ability to persist in problem solving by making effective use of available resources and by taking the initiative to do appropriate research, testing, and troubleshooting.
  • The ability to give, find, and use feedback to improve oneself, team, and design to persevere through failure and find success.
  • The ability to initiate and contribute to a variety of collaborative discussions and tasks with diverse teammates.

[Taking Student Voice Beyond The Classroom: Student Perspective]

Developing these skills requires authentic, hands on experiences in a low risk environment. Students can’t develop a skill if they don’t apply it and students won’t try to apply a skill if they think they will be punished for failure. That is why I’ve built the Fair Haven Innovates program to be a safe place for students to apply these skills. As you can imagine, all of this makes Fair Haven Innovates a unique learning experience. Parents often ask what they can do to help their child do their best in my class. Here is what you can do to help:

Encourage Them To Have Creative Confidence

FH Innovates is student-centered learning. Student-centered learning moves students from passive consumers of knowledge to active participants in the learning process. In a student-centered classroom, the teacher is not the sage on stage, they are the guide on the side. I only do whole class instruction to layout key concepts and expectations. This takes less than ten minutes a class. The rest of the class students are expected to work together to solve their entrepreneurial challenges using our problem-solving process. As the guide on the side, my job is not to do things for students. My job is to empower them to do things for themselves. My job is to guide students toward success by giving my advice and opinion, resources, and direction.

In class I say things like “I can’t wait to see how you solve this problem” “What have you tried?” “What research have you done?” and “Let’s see what happens!” to help students take ownership of their learning. The uncertainty that comes with being in the driver’s seat of their learning can be tough for some students.

You can help by encouraging your students to have creative confidence. As I remind them in class, nothing students do can’t be undone and no risk will be held against them. If they do research and make their best educated guesses, they’ll be successful in my class. By encouraging students to have creative confidence, we can get them to take that first step toward owning their learning.

Encourage Them To Rethink Failure

Choice paralysis exists in FH Innovates. Some students would rather do nothing, then do something and make a mistake. In FH Innovates, failure is a valuable teaching tool. When we fail, reflect, and try again, we learn a lot. Failure is a wonderful teacher and reframing failure as iteration is an important character trait. As part of the problem solving process, I encourage students to fail quickly and cheaply, so they can iterate and make their solution even better. Some students have never been allowed to fail before, so they will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing the adversity of failure.

You can help by helping your student understand that failing is a temporary state of being. Just because you failed doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Failure doesn’t mean the project is over or you stop trying. Failure is great, as long as you learn something from it. FAIL really just means First Attempt In Learning.

Encourage Them To Set Goals

Of all the skills being developed in Fair Haven Innovates, research is showing the ability to be persistent may be the most valuable skill for our kids to possess. In my class, success rarely comes quickly. Through the extended challenges students work on, I’m hoping to build their persistence. Unfortunately, if a task seems too big or too hard, instead of being persistent, some students give up. Giving up looks like goofing around in class, complaining that they don’t know what to do despite my having worked with them to develop next steps, or otherwise using avoidance techniques to get out of working.

Persistence is developed through goal setting. In class, we use (SMART) goal setting to break down big, complex problems and projects into smaller, more manageable parts. Talk to your students about the goals they set for their project and how they plan on meeting those goals.

Encourage Them To Be Empathetic

No one works by themselves. Working as part of a team is a given these days. The same goes for Fair Haven Innovates. Students will work together in teams to complete shared goals, but I know working as a team isn’t always easy. In class, we talk about what being a good teammate looks like and the actions that one should take to be a good teammate. I have activites and feedback systems in place where students will learn how they can grow as teammates.

The most important aspect of being a good teammate that you can help me drive home is empathy. Some students struggle to think about things from their teammates point-of-view. I find when I get students to slow down and think through how something makes the rest of the team feel, the collaboration and end product are much better. When students can predict, understand, and share the feelings of a teammate, it goes a long way in achieving the psychological safety that teams need to be their best.

Ultimately, the goal of Fair Haven Innovates is to expose students to the technology, fields, and careers that are both available to them now and will be available to them in the future while also developing the skills they’ll need to be successful no matter what they do when they grow up. I believe in what I teach, how I teach it, and I work incredibly hard to make FH Innovates the best it can be. I believe every student can find value in what Fair Haven Innovates has to offer and I am committed to guiding every student toward success.

I’m looking forward to a great year!

Mr. Aviles

Until Next Time,


cross-posted at Teched Up Teacher

Chris Aviles presents on education topics including gamification, technology integration, BYOD, blended learning, and the flipped classroom. Read more at Teched Up Teacher.

Chris Aviles is a STEM teacher, edtech specialist, and president of Garden State Esports. He is also a regular contributor to Tech & Learning.