I-Tri Begins on Campus

Jim Le '23, Contributor

This spring marks the beginning of another Innovation Trimester(I-Tri), an immersive program for members of the senior class in their last term on the Island. Started four years ago, the I-Tri invites students to spend their academic time in the PHI, working on projects with real businesses and organizations.
With a shift from traditional classes to a more project-oriented, hand-ons learning opportunity, an I-Tri student’s schedule might look slightly different from other students’.
The I-Tri is worth five classes and occurs during the academic day, respecting every all-school community time. However, adjustments were made to accomodate for the program’s special activities and classes.
“We don’t follow the school’s rotating block schedule, which gives us incredible flexibility to meet with project partners, go off campus, and do activities that might take longer than a typical 70 minute period,” said Associate Director of Innovation Jennine Solomon.
Throughout the I-Tri, students regularly work in groups and spend much of their time pursuing projects that are in partnership with local businesses and organizations. This year, the program revolves around five major projects. For each of these projects, a local business owner will meet with the students, sharing their entrepreneurship journey and diving into their business. They will then pose a challenge to the students—ones that are real and meaningful to their own companies.
“During the projects, Ms. Appel and I work with students to develop strategies to creatively address each of these challenges. This process involves lots of use of sticky notes and whiteboard tables in the PHI,” said Ms. Solomon.
After days of researching, interviewing stakeholders or potential customers, and visiting specific locations, students are ready for their public presentation—an accumulation of their work and solutions proposed to business owners, faculty, and invited listeners. Through the program, the student experience primarily focuses on verbal and written feedback from their teachers than on the gradebook.
“After each major project, students will receive a graded rubric and will spend time in a 2-on-1 conference with the faculty. The conference is more of a conversation between teachers and students and each student will choose an area of growth they would like to intentionally work to improve. Progress in that area of growth is then assessed by the faculty during the next project,” said Ms. Solomon.
This approach of conversational feedback has been an appealing component of the I-Tri for students.
“In regular classes, no one points out your fidgeting and lack of projection while you’re presenting. No one tells you that putting square images in a circle seems off-putting. While these skills can be learned through practice and experience, I saw the I-Tri as an opportunity that couldn’t be overlooked,” said Mercy Olagunju ’22.
Graded feedback and student input are among the various reasons why students decided to participate in the I-Tri this year. For many, learning extends beyond ordinary classrooms and into the real world, thereby developing the necessary knowledge and skill sets to tackle the ongoing problems of business industries.
“I have always wanted to try something new and unlike any educational experience I have had before. The I-Tri incorporates many courses into one unique program where more project, hands-on, and group-based learning are woven into real-world problem solving and design thinking. I want to greatly improve my leadership, teamwork, and feedback abilities,” Nick Turcotte ’22 explained.
“I found that the I-Tri was an opportunity to have an out-of-class learning experience where we get to transform the skills we learned in regular classes like Math and English into tangible projects. Not only will I be able to build useful presentation and collaborative skills, but I’ll also be able to contribute to the businesses in the local Hartford area,” added Mercy.
Interestingly, this year’s I-Tri program promotes a similar theme to that of the school—the theme of happiness. Through the work with local partners, students are furnished with the chance to not only explore the underlying complexity of real businesses, but also to learn more about themselves as a student, a person, and a member within the greater community.