Julian Waters on The Impact of Changing Minds

“So many in our society are quick to criticize the system that public school students learn under, but equally strong in number are those who strive actively to change it. By promoting student voice, self-directed learning, and passion-centered projects in school, we’re making a lasting difference for students in their secondary schooling and well into their future. Together, we can make the education of tomorrow.”

-Julian Waters, Young Maker, Innovator, Educator

Young Maker Julian Waters presents at the Education Forum in New York
Young Maker Julian Waters presents at the Education Forum in New York.

These are the words of Julian Waters, a senior at Western Albemarle High School in Crozet, Virginia. He received a standing ovation from over 300+ educators last Friday at the Make: Education Forum ( #MakeEdForum16) for his presentation (watch the live stream). As I was listening to Julian, I was reminded how it is never too late to invest in students, to invest in their passions, to find ways in our daily practice to promote student voice and to create more open-ended activities and projects. Making is a wonderful vehicle in which to do so.

Julian discussed the change in mindset among the adults at his school and how this directly impacted his student experience: specific spaces on campus were transformed for students and designed around their interests, ideas that were once shot down like the Drone and Model Aviation Club are now appreciated and supported, and students who were not considered academically successful, like Julian, are now mentors to fellow students and working in tandem with teachers and administrators to break the mold of standardized education. As Julian stated, “These are the kinds of changes that can stem directly from student voices being heard AND invested in… These educators, and these amazing new ideas and mindsets have transformed Albemarle County Public Schools into a school system where anything is possible and where students not only experience education, but help to make it.

Thank you, Julian, for reminding me that it’s never too late to support youth; it’s never too late to change how I teach and learn and, in turn, change my practice.


Follow Julian on Twitter for more insights into maker education from an outstanding student. 

Photo credit: Chad Ratliff




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