We at Thinking Foundation wish to start the new year and a new decade with a special announcement. First, a bit of background. Back in the early 1990’s I worked with educators in Mississippi and found deep inspiration in the teachers, students and educational leaders in the state. In the mid-1990’s, I met an educator there, Dr. Marjann Ball, who inspired me to see how Thinking Maps could be tools for transforming education across the whole state. She was insistent: the WHOLE state. It is a long road, but Marjann is helping educators across the state build those roads, from her work at the community college level, her research there (see Ball Dissertation on the Thinking Foundation website), and over the years in pre-K to 12 schools. This is now witnessed in the Pass Christian Public School District that is being highlighted in the documentary film (in production) Minds of Mississippi. Even after 8 years of working in “The Pass” Marjann is still working with educators there this year… dedicated to learning from them as she offers her insights.
Bringing Thinking Maps to students and teachers in Mississippi has been Marjann’s calling for nearly twenty years. It is also a family affair, as Marjann’s sister, and other members of the family including a daughter and her niece have worked across the state. And then there was a greater calling. Marjann’s youngest daughter, Ariel, was diagnosed with bone cancer some years ago, fought hard and with grace to survive, and then passed away from all of us. I had some delightful, meaningful times with Ariel… one time sitting by her bedside as she was fighting the rare disease, talking with her as she watched one of her favorite shows: Gray’s Anatomy. She spent so much painful time in hospitals and she was still intrigued by a television show that dealt with the most difficult part of her world. She wanted to understand. She was a special child who was thoughtful and full of heart. Young Ariel was and IS an inspiration to many of us. You can read about her through Marjann’s letter.
When I suggested to Marjann that we offer annual Ariel Awards to honor inspired student work, she immediately agreed. With this background, Thinking Foundation is pleased to announce the establishment of the annual Ariel Awards in honor of Ariel Ball of Laurel, Mississippi who left a gift of thoughtful, artful thinking to this world.
Read about the annual awards at www.thinkingfoundation.org.
In the next few months, through this blog, we will be highlighting students who have created some amazing work, from abstract art to mapping out a whole biology textbook! We will honor them with an Ariel Award.
We hope, in a small way, that these awards honor Ariel for endless years to come and inspire more students to open their minds and hearts, as Ariel did, to the full range of possibilities in the lives they lead. We will keep a gallery of student work on this website, whether or not the students received the few awards we are able to give every year. Hopefully, this student work will also help all of us reflect on what is essential for educating our children, now and into the unknowable future.