Our KDSL Global Intern recently had the opportunity to interview with Luke Meinen, Manager of Level 5 Bahrain. This is an initiative of International School Services, a nonprofit that leads schools, facilitates recruitment and provides best-in-breed learning solutions.
Tell us about LEVEL 5.
First and foremost, LEVEL 5 is a nonprofit that hosts creative learning experiences for students, educators and the wider community on a myriad of topics that aim to spark innovation and creativity in education.
The first LEVEL 5 opened in Shenzhen, China four years ago and has proved to be a successful platform to help educators shift practice, design real-world, experiential learning, and ignite passion within students in the creative spaces. With the success of LEVEL 5 China, we saw the opportunity to expand this endeavor into the MENA region opening LEVEL 5 Bahrain at Riffa Views International School.
Our professional learning workshops focus on three categories; making, contemporary pedagogy, and innovative leadership. This wide range of events will help us provide a new type of professional learning for region. These workshops are available for educators, community members and students as we recognize the power of young and old working and learning together.
During the 2019-2020 school year, we will host 12 full weekend workshops, night events, and single day weekend learning experiences. These events will be facilitated by both local and international educators and artists from around the world.
Tell us about the new space with the Riffa Views International School.
The creation of LEVEL 5 has been a process that has taken a full year to complete as we knew we wanted this space to reflect the school community it resided in. We were gracious enough to have been given a beautiful space with huge amounts of natural light as a blank canvas.
In order to leverage the ideas of the entire RVIS community, we invited staff, students and parents into the space to help us co-create this new space. We loosely followed a Design Sprint model to rapidly ideate, prototype and test ideas from all who participated. You can read about this process in detail here Co-creating Authentic Change. This helped us gather the best ideas from the entire community to begin the process of designing this new agile space.
For LEVEL 5 to be successful, it requires a completely agile space that can be reconfigured to meet the needs of any type of workshop or learning experience. Utilizing prior successes of the LEVEL 5 China, research from the Stanford d School and a plethora of other resources we designed the space around this concept. Writable surfaces for ideation everywhere, agile furniture, smooth transitional flooring and caster wheels on EVERYTHING have helped us create this flexible space.
Actual construction of the space took three months to complete (time lapse of construction), and it was launched in late May of the 2018-2019 academic year. Along with this beautiful new physical space, we will also be out fitting it with a host of creative tools like 3D printers, laser engravers, microcontrollers, traditional fabrication tools, and much more. These will be for students, parents, educators and community members to use design, create and test new and innovative ideas.
During the day, LEVEL 5 will be open to the RVIS community and students to use. We are not using it as a traditional space to host scheduled classes, but more as an open space that can be booked by the teachers. The hope is to have these ideals and innovative practices flow into classrooms rather than being isolated in the space. Our aim is to help inspire the students in our school by providing them with the same type of learning experiences that happen during our professional learning workshops both inside LEVEL 5 and out.
What strategies do you use to activate the Bahrain educational community?
Over the past year, another focus for LEVEL 5 Bahrain has been to activate the educational community across the island by building collaborative relationships between schools. In Bahrain, the relationships that have been built up between schools are often competitive in nature through sports, competitions, and other events. There were pockets of collaboration, but we wanted this to grow as we know that when educators share knowledge and practice, everyone wins, especially the students.
With this in mind, we began to systematically create opportunities for sharing, collaborating and learning that were open to all educators on the island regardless of what school they taught at. We created a What’s App group to share ideas and learning opportunities, promoted an existing Facebook group, started a shared hashtag (#bahrainedu) to deprivatize the great things that were happening in classrooms around the island, and started events called #TeachmeetBahrain to provide opportunities to physically meet up and share.
In just a year, some great things have happened, and I believe that this will continue to grow as more people engage in these opportunities to collaborate. For a detailed look into this, you can find the steps we took here; Activating Your Educational Community.
Luke Meinen is the manager of LEVEL 5, Bahrain where he coordinates events and workshops and facilitates learning experiences. Over the past year, he has worked to co-create this new space with the Riffa Views International School community. He is also working to activate the education community in Bahrain through the organization of TeachMeets, collaborative groups and social gatherings for educators and leaders.
Prior to joining LEVEL 5, he worked as an elementary educator for nine years in East Asia, Africa and the Middle East designing authentic learning experiences for his classes and colleagues. He enjoys fabrication, playing basketball, surfing and spending time with his family in his free time.