15 Percent Innovation Portfolio – Awesome Happens Outside the Classroom

Our children are the future. Today’s youth, Generation Z, are already one of the largest generational segments at more than a quarter of America’s population.

What will they do in their lifetimes?

Innately, our children aspire to change the world. Studies have shown that Gen Z, a product of the economic recession and ever present technology, aspires to be entrepreneurs and inventors. In fact, 72% of high school students want to start a business someday, and 61% of students want to be an entrepreneur rather than an employee. Not only are our children technology natives with the resources of the world at their fingertips through the Internet, they are socially conscious. Of the eldest of Gen Z, 19 year-olds entering college, 40% plan to invent something that will change the world.

This is why New Life Academy introduced the 15% Innovation Portfolio (IP) program. Students in 6-12th grades spend 15% of their science track in creative time outside structured classroom lessons to pursue an idea or passion in one of three S.T.E.A.M areas (science, engineering or coding).

Koroush Motalebi from 3M speaking to New Life Academy students about innovation

NLA’s 15% IP is modeled after 3M’s successful 15% rule whereby employees spend time on an idea they didn’t have time to explore during their workday—regardless of whether it’s tied to a company’s current mission or not. In September, Kourosh Motalebi, Senior Business Leader at 3M, spoke to our students about 3M’s culture of innovation and 15% rule.

The concept has been picked up by some of the most successful companies in the world, including Google and Apple. Some of the greatest inventions that we use every day were invented out of natural curiosity. The Post-it Notes of 3M were a result of the 15% rule and came to be because employee Art Fry had an idea to invent a better bookmark to keep his place in the hymnal for church choir.

Rising from his initial bookkeeping position to the chairman of 3M’s board, William McKnight best explained the 15% rule: “Encourage experimental doodling. If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.”

Dean Hagar of JAMF software talking to New Life Academy students about coding and innovation

Dean Hagar, CEO of JAMF Software, also spoke to our students and believes that awesome happens outside the classroom. Every classroom on our campus is an incubator for capturing knowledge, applying it, and working to develop an understanding of the subject matter. Outside the classroom, through the 15% IP program, we inspire our students to take that knowledge, dream big, have self-confidence and find ways to change the world.

We know that during this time, our students will do awesome things. By now, the world is starting to realize that our kids shouldn’t be underestimated. Angela Zhang was 17 in 2012 when she invented a protocol that allowed doctors to better detect cancerous tumors on MRI scans. Also in 2012, 15-year-old Jack Andraka invented an inexpensive, accurate sensor that can detect pancreatic cancer. In 2015, 16-year-old Ann Makosinski appeared on The Jimmy Fallon Show to show off her invention—a flashlight powered by the heat from the user’s hand.

Always minded toward paving the way for a brighter future for our children, NLA’s 15% Innovation Portfolio will prepare our students for higher levels of academia and the competitive business environment. They will graduate New Life Academy with a collection of accomplishments (their innovation portfolio) and a spirit of determination, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation.