Fall 2020 CKTS Class Info


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This page discusses the Innovation Mindset Map, the pedagogy behind the learning experiences we create for our Curious Kids, the Aspiring Innovator program specifically, and the particulars of when classes begin, how much they cost, how to register, and other useful details. There is even a section about Who We Are so you can meet the wonderful people that create the magic your kids love in every class. We invite you to peruse the sections below and contact us if you are curious about anything else. We LOVE curiosity! 

Why Innovation Academy?

Innovation is quickly becoming the most important skill your child needs.  We are facing unprecedented challenges, and our kids are inheriting a different world from our own. Innovation Academy is a completely different kind of educational experience focusing on our Innovation Mindset Map (c):

0. Take Responsibility…   fully
1. Solve Problems…   proactively
2. Take Action…   immediately
3. Work Hard…   playfully
4. Take Risks…   often
5. Embrace Failure…   thoughtfully
6. Develop GRIT…   purposefully
7. Choose Gratitude…   continually
8. Collect Wisdom…   intentionally
9. Pursue Excellence…   imaginatively

These habits build on each other starting with #0 (yes, it starts with “0” because it is a prerequisite for all the others). Innovators like Elon Musk and Richard Branson are using these habits (specifically 1-5) to drive positive change. Our programs are developed by a PhD physicist and an educational technologist with over 20 years of classroom teaching experience. Join us to experience the Innovation Academy Difference.


Pedagogy? What's that?

1. the art or science of teaching; 2. the art of bringing curiosity alive in the mind of another human.  note: learning is the natural by-product of curiosity.“Pedagogy” is a word often referred to in education as the “art of teaching”. We like to think of it as the intentional process of designing learning environments to cultivate curiosity. Mark K. Smith (2012) offers another intriguing definition — that of “bringing learning to life”. His definition has three parts:

  • Animation – bringing ‘life’ into situations. This is often achieved through offering new experiences.
  • Reflection – creating moments and spaces to explore lived experience.
  • Action – working with people so that they are able to make changes in their lives.

The theoretical framework for every learning experience we develop is a constructivist/constructionist foundation, heavily influenced by learning theorists such as John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and Seymour Papert. We have learned much from Mitch Resnick and the MIT Media Lab, from IDEO and the Stanford University d.school, Dr. Linda Polin, Dr. Sue Talley, Dr. Gary Stager, Dr. Bill Moseley, Dr. David Thornburg, Norma Thornburg, Sylvia Martinez, Clark Barnett, Josh Burker, and hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers all across the country who facilitate innovative learning landscapes in their own classrooms.

Our practice, in all that we do, is firmly grounded in solid educational theory — we stand on the shoulders of giants!

Asking Good Questions Matters!

Asking Good Questions Matters!

Students need to ask good questions about what they are learning. Parents need to ask good questions about their children’s educational experience. Teachers need to ask good questions about how to best set up the learning environment to encourage curiosity and innovation. If they do, then students will ask good questions… do you see how this works? 

At Innovation Academy, one of our guiding questions is how to develop REAL innovators on purpose — kids that can respond to the ever-changing and challenging world that we live in. We are educating kids to solve problems that haven’t even been thought of yet! So in this context, what does “education” and “learning” and “innovation” really mean?

Imagine trying to explain “social media” to a farmer from 1856.  How do you explain radio waves (inventor not even born yet), the relationship between binary math (studied first in late 1500’s as a curiosity) and complex artificial intelligence (another 100 years away) that enable “social media” platforms to automatically identify faces in digital photos (also another 100 years away) and connect people from across the globe?

To that farmer, the word “social” refers to groups of people physically located close enough to speak to each other and “media” is the plural of “medium”. You and the farmer are using the same words but without any common definitions for understanding.

At Innovation Academy, we have the same challenge communicating our use of the words “education”, “learning”, and “innovation”.

We believe

    • “teachers” are NOT answer-givers but rather lead “learners” who model how to ask great questions;
    • “learning” and “education” are processes to master rather than content to acquire;
    • curiosity should NOT be satisfied but INSTEAD amplified;
    • we should raise more and deeper questions rather than giving quick answers;
    • curiosity is the key to real innovation;
    • “learning” is an internal product of thinking in the mind of the student rather than broadcast from the front of the room;
    • the REAL goal of “education” is a life-long search for ever deeper questions across an ever-widening field of exploration.

We don’t even know what we don’t know

Smiling girl with glasses in a yellow shirt with question marks in speech bubbles near her head.It isn’t that we discourage seeking out answers.  We just know that the more we look down the rabbit hole, the more there is to see–like looking out into the universe through an ever-improving telescope.  Every time around the loop we see more than ever before but realize just how much more there is to see.

I (Steve) like asking questions like “how much more is there to know?”, and recently I did a little calculation about how much I think humans might actually know about the universe.  This is approximately how much we know about the universe (ask me about this number some time).


The universe has so many more secrets to be discovered!

Redefining Education

At Innovation Academy, we are developing REAL innovators on purpose, because we believe through the development of initiative, good habits, and focused-curiosity your student will become a world-changer developing new technology, making new scientific discoveries, and leading the way to exciting new frontiers!

We look forward to helping our culture redefine the meaning of “education” and “learning”.  Join us on this quest.  Ask questions.  Sign up for classes.  Prepare to create a better future.

How is IA different?

If you haven’t read the previous “Asking Good Questions?” section, read that first then come back here.

We have had many conversations with educators using the words “education”, “learning”, and “innovation”, but rarely find we are on the same page with them or working at the same level.  We are trying to play at a level where others are not even aware there is a game.

The following sums up two levels where games are being played.  In the one on the left, you will recognize other organizations while on the right you will find the ideals to which we are striving.

Product Focused vs Process Oriented; Step-by-Step vs Guided Exploration; Tired Examples vs Extreme Relevance; Giving Answers vs Encouraging Questions; Knowledge Dumping vs Developing Innovators

Product-Focused vs Process-Oriented || Step-by-Step vs Guided Exploration || Tired Examples vs Extreme Relevance || Giving Answers vs Encouraging Questions || Knowledge Dumping vs Developing Innovators

Product-Focused vs Process-Oriented

Learning is a process of asking a question that makes us curious, sending us in search of new information, and finding a deeper understanding which refocuses the original question, a process allowing ever deeper questions leading to deeper answers and more questions.

I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think. - Socrates

Great education focuses on how to help students develop their own ability to learn and the PROCESSES behind those abilities. Instead of giving the “right answers”, true educators create an environment where students can’t help becoming curious — they give them tools to pursue deeper insights and then allow students the space to explore on their own.  Knowledge obtained this way is bought at a higher price and valued with a commensurately higher level of personal respect.

Rigor is a product of deep exploration fueled by curiosity.  Pursuing “right answers” will never provide enough energy to develop a deep understanding.  On the other hand, presenting a student with intriguing questions and providing a rich environment for exploration always leads to more curiosity and the development of unique, internal processes for exploration into the unknown.

Step-by-Step vs Guided Exploration

Much of what passes as education is really a fragile set of steps relying on highly specific circumstances.  Procedures can be very useful in any situation in which repeatable results are needed, but as soon as the supporting environment changes, the ability of the steps to ensure high-quality results begins to seriously degrade.

As an example, consider the procedure for shifting in a car with an automatic transmission.  In most cases we apply the brake, pull a lever on the shifter, and move it to the “D” or “drive” position.  Then applying the gas and brake alternately give us a smooth ride.  Now…

Try that with a manual transmission and see how you do. Not good, right?

IF your transmission survives the ordeal, it will probably need to be serviced, and you will still be in the driveway.  No amount of following the above procedure will help you drive an automobile with a manual transmission and a clutch.

Here’s a real-life story – Some students Debby knew had a terrible experience with this kind of learning.  A few years ago, a major software company did a complete redesign to the interface of one of their most popular software suites by adding large buttons across the top of the screen instead of their old menu system.

Right after this switch, some of the students came almost literally crying into Debby’s office because the steps they had learned in another class following the old steps with the old menu-driven interface no longer worked with the new interface.  The steps were as useless as the automatic transmission steps would be for driving a manual transmission.

How should they have learned about office productivity software?

Well in Debby’s class, students use online productivity software as well as free open-source software or any other type of productivity software available to students.  The class is more about exploring the features and capabilities of productivity software no matter the platform, operating system, or selection interface (old or new styles don’t matter–only underlying principles guiding how such software is typically created.

As a result, students in Debby’s classes learn to navigate ANY productivity software regardless of the format, manufacturer, or operating system.  They knew how to create their own steps.  Their method of learning and creating steps could adapt to NEW situations and software.

Tired Examples vs Extreme Relevance

Have you ever heard a student say some variation of “been there, done that”?

When students know what comes next, they have found “the right answer” and all inquiry in that direction stops.  Further investigation is boring and irrelevant.  But what happens when a student is given “a real poser” or a challenge the desperately WANT to solve?

How can we hope to keep student’s attention with tired old examples?

Today’s students need extreme relevance both to keep their attention AND to help them learn relevant skills because anything they learn today is likely to be obsolete in a decade.  What kind of examples and challenges does today’s student need?

The student of today needs to use 3D printers together with 3D design software regularly if they want to learn how to create physical designs.  They need to learn how to program just to maintain basic literacy in their world.  They need to be exposed to electronics, embedded processors, sensors, and actuators if they ever hope to bring a new product to today’s market of smart devices.

Almost nothing in the arsenal of tired old examples will work anymore.

Does this mean students don’t need to know history, reading, writing, math, and other traditional topics?  Absolutely not.  Instead, students need to learn these subjects in the context of their complex world, because while technology and human capabilities continue to push into unbelievable frontiers, humans still have many things to learn about themselves–and history, literature, the effects of our writing, and how we came to know our current tech world (math, science, art, engineering, etc) needs to be studied.

The only context that will truly prepare today’s student is one that utilizes highly relevant tools and concepts.

“If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow.” ― John Dewey

Giving Answers vs Encouraging Questions

An answer ties a neat little bow on a conversation, but a single great question can lead to a lifetime of exploration.

Most of us grew up with an educational context in which we were asked questions which had very specific “right answers”.   We knew that “1 + 1 = 2”, “the capital of France is Paris”, and “water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen”.  We periodically had to repeat these answers on paper at specific times called “tests”.  As a result, our society got very good at taking tests and giving “right answers”.

But what if living a good life is more about asking the right questions than in giving the right answers?

I will try to shed some light here with an example.  Have you ever been to the DMV?  Me too.  Do they have the “right answers”?  Yes, but…  Have you ever discovered that you are one piece of paper short?  You asked all sorts of questions to the DMV official, except THAT ONE.  As a result, you now have to go back home, find the missing document, and come back again.

What if instead of you having to ask all the questions while the DMV official gave TECHNICALLY correct answers, the DMV personnel asked YOU intelligent questions, found out what you did not know that you needed to know, and handed you a single piece of paper with everything you needed in one handy place?  Now THAT would be amazing!

Here is another example.

In every classroom, I have visited, students ask questions because they have plenty to learn.  However, our typical response is to give a simple answer to which the student says something along the lines of “oh” or “interesting”, and the conversation is over.

But what if we turned that model around, and when the student asked us a question, we asked them another question in return?

For instance, a student asks, “What is a black hole?”, and we respond with “What do you already know about black holes?”.  After a few short sentences, the student runs out of information on black holes, so you ask “How are hurricanes and spiral galaxies similar?”  The student says, “I don’t know,” to which you respond, “What could you do to remedy that?”.  A student in a good classroom would then smile sheepishly and begin some internet research on hurricanes and spiral galaxies.

It turns out that even the world’s best scientists may not know the answer to the question you asked.  So why ask it?  The student got CURIOUS and went to learn the answers ON THEIR OWN!  Knowledge earned this way stays longer and fosters more and deeper questions.  In fact, with a little encouragement, that same student may decide to become an astronomer or physicist with a SINGLE great question driving them through an entire career of learning and contribution.

THAT is the power of questions.

Knowledge Dumping vs Developing Innovators

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. - William Butler YeatsEducation is about developing learners NOT about relaying history (aka giving knowledge).  If we think carefully about everything we “know”, we will discover that everything we know was discovered in the PAST.  That means that ALL of our knowledge is, in some sense, history.

Now for a historian, this is a fascinating topic, and I don’t want to spoil their fun.

However, if we want to be prepared for the unknown (aka “life”), we have to learn how to innovate our way into the future.

Much of what passes for “learning” or “education” is more like dumping knowledge (aka historical facts) onto students hoping some of it will stick.  Yet in today’s world, the internet knows basically all the history, and nobody is willing to pay for things they can learn for free on the internet.  Robots are also taking many of the menial tasks, so why will we need humans in the coming decades?

Ok, that sounded a little dystopian, so let’s turn it around.

What do today’s students need in order to remain relevant in future jobs?

In short, they need to become innovators.  I did a podcast interview with Tony Wagner about his fantastic book “Creating Innovators”.  In this book, Tony outlines dozens of conversations he has had with top leaders in every industry about the topic of what they need in future staff.  The overwhelming reaction boiled down to individuals who could learn on their own, land on their feet in uncertain circumstances, and create innovative solutions to all manner of strange challenges.  Plainly said, future employees need to be thinkers and innovators.

Today’s student will become tomorrow’s employee, entrepreneur, or leader.  Preparing them for this uncertain future requires plenty of practice solving problems, especially ones that have not yet been solved.  Our goal at Innovation Academy is to encourage today’s students to become tomorrow’s innovators by “staying curious”, “exploring often”, and “creating the future”.

What makes a good project?

Our friends Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager have written a book called “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom” and it is a wonderful resource not only for teachers but for homeschool parents who want to create rich learning environments for their children.

One of our favorite sections talks about the Eight Elements of a Good Project. We work hard to build these elements into everything we develop.

Seymour PapertFrom the book (pp. 60-61):

In Papert’s theory of constructionism, the best way to construct knowledge or understanding is through the construction of something sharable, outside of a student’s head. Those artifacts are commonly thought of as projects, even though the project development process is where the learning occurs. Such artifacts are evidence of learning.

1.  Purpose and Relevance. Is the project personally meaningful? Does the project prompt intrigue in the learner enough to have him or her invest time, effort, and creativity into the development of the project?
2. Time. Class time affords students equal access to expertise and materials; projects may also need sufficient out-of-class time available.
3. Complexity. The best projects combine multiple subject areas and call upon the prior knowledge and expertise of each student. Best of all, serendipitous insights and connections to big ideas lead to the greatest payoff for learners.
4. Intensity. Children have a remarkable capacity for intensity that is rarely tapped by the slice and diced curriculum. Projects provide an outlet for the exercise of that intensity. Think about how long kids can spend mastering a video game, reading a favorite book series, memorizing the attributes of Pokemon, or building a treehouse, and you have a good template for successful project-based learning.
 5. Connection. During great projects, students are connected to each other, experts, multiple subject areas, powerful ideas, and the world via the web. The lessons learned during interpersonal connections that are required by collaborations last a lifetime.  
6. Access. Students need access to a wide variety of concrete and digital materials anytime, anyplace. Personal student laptops make this possible, but we also need to think about the quality and quantity of craft materials, books, tools, hardware, software, and Internet access that allows learners to follow paths we may never have anticipated.
7. Sharability. This is the big idea of project-based learning! Students need to make something that is sharable with others. This provides a great deal of motivation, relevance, perspective making, reciprocal learning, and an authentic audience for the project. “A project is something you want to share” is a sufficient definition for learners of all ages.
8. Novelty. Few project ideas are so profound that every student needs to engage in its development in every class. If one student makes a fantastic discovery during a project, others can learn from it without slavishly repeating the steps of the pioneering student. In a healthy community of practice, learning continues and knowledge is shared naturally without coerced repetition.

Martinez, Sylvia Libow, and Gary Stager, Ph.D. “What Makes a Good Project?” Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, vol. 2, Constructing Modern Knowledge, 2019, pp. 60–61. http://www.InventToLearn.com.

Who We Are - The Company

When you engage with Innovation Academy, you can be assured that we are partnering with you in your child’s educational journey. Here’s a little about us and who we are:

  • Intentional Learning: Our learning is designed by the best –  a PhD physicist (Steve) and an Education Technologist (Debby) – based on a solid foundation of constructivist pedagogy.

  • Model of Innovation: Innovation Academy has been asked 5 years in a row to be the “Model” for Innovation at the “Model Schools Conference” (Nashville, Orlando 2x, Atlanta, Washington DC)

  • National Perspective: Innovation Academy has facilitated camps and workshops in California, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • In-Demand Experts: Innovation Academy has designed and facilitated events for districts and county education offices (Apple Valley, Burbank, Snowline, and Conejo Unified School Districts; Inyo/Mono, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Shasta, and Trinity County Offices of Education), small schools (Ojai CA, Temecula CA, Hartford CT, Walworth WI, and Murphy NC), university staff and programs (Cal State Channel Islands, Pepperdine University, Southern Adventist University), and presented at numerous conferences and organizations (including Google LA, International Society for Technology in Education, Northwest Council for Computer Education, CUE, Expanding Your Horizons, Inside 3D Printing, 3D Printer World Expo, CHEA, Valley Home Educator’s Conference, California Homeschool Network Family Expo).

  • Upward Growth: We have almost doubled every year in some way (revenue, # students, and #staff)

Learn more about Innovation Academy as a company by visiting our About Us page.

Who We Are - The Team

Our team is enthusiastic, energetic, and at times, just a little crazy… and we are dedicated to the art of bringing curiosity alive for your student! All team members are fingerprinted and background checked — they are people we have the highest trust in because we know you trust us with your children. Integrity is one of our core values!

Read on to learn more about each of us individually, and if you are curious about what we are curious about, hover over our pictures for some fun facts (tap the picture on mobile).

The Idea Makers

Steve Kurti, Ph.D – Founder and Chief Innovator

The Basics

  • Ph.D. Physics, Case Western Reserve University
  • B.S. Physics / B.A. Math, Southern Adventist University (Summa Cum Laude)
  • Research Physicist, NAVAIR, China Lake, CA
  • Associate Professor, Dental Research, Loma Linda University
  • Activities: four patents, thirteen publications, seventeen presentations; MacGyvering an RV across the country and back 6 times!
  • LinkedIn [link]

Steve’s Story

Steve has a Ph.D. in Physics from Case Western Reserve University. As a student there, he did bench science ranging from polymers and electro-optics to high energy pulsed laser and vacuum systems. His thesis focused on the temporal pulse compression in synchronously pumped parametric oscillators. (translation: he specialized in LASERS!). His undergraduate degree is from Southern Adventist University in physics and math, with a minor in education.

Before founding Innovation Academy, Steve worked as a civilian researcher for the US Navy and as the director of the Photonics Applications and Biomaterials research laboratory of a major medical university. As a kid, he had his own “laboratory” under the basement stairs at his parent’s house where he would take things apart (and sometimes put them back together), experiment with electronics and the Ham radio, and MacGyver’d all sorts of inventions together to solve problems. You could say he’s always been an INNOVATOR

He says — We are creating a new future for STEM education. We are creating PBL pathways using the latest technologies such as 3D printing, embedded processors, and programming. We constantly hear parents tell us that they can’t believe how much their kids learned in such a short amount of time…

But we are just getting started. Kids are superheroes. They are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. I want to probe the outer limits of what teens can really accomplish. Let’s talk more about the possibilities.


Debby Kurti, M.Ed. – Co-founder and Disruptive Learning Strategist


Curious About: Curiosity

Fun Fact: Almost joined the Navy as a cryptographer

Favorite Song: The Dance by Garth Brooks

The Basics

  • M.Ed. Educational Technology and Leadership, Pepperdine University
  • B.A. Linguistics (ESL concentration) with minor in English, California State University Fresno
  • Advanced Online Teaching Certification, University of California Los Angeles
  • College Professor, Computer Information Science, Victor Valley College
  • Adjunct Professor, Pepperdine University, Post University, City University of Seattle
  • Activities: over 25 years of classroom experience teaching everything from kindergarten to graduate school; Former 4-H community club leader, dog care & training project leader, and all-star.
  • LinkedIn [link]

Debby’s Story

Debby earned her Masters of Arts in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University, with a focus on engaging students in on-campus and online learning experiences that increased student success and retention by creating learning communities. Her undergraduate degree is in Linguistics (ESL concentration) with a minor in English from California State University Fresno. Along the way, she picked up a few semesters of early childhood education, administration of justice, psychology, and several other things, mostly because she was insatiably curious. By the age of 4, she was already a school teacher, with her stuffed animals as pupils. A few years later she would play school with the neighbor kids and was (you guessed it!) the teacher. In elementary school, she tutored other students. In high school, teachers would give her lessons to teach when they had to leave the room and she led multiple 4-H projects as a teen leader. You could say, she’s always been a EDUCATOR!

She says —  I am an educational experimentalist. My teaching style is an eclectic blend of constructivist pedagogy fused with social learning theory that allows me to facilitate interesting experiences that pique my students’ curiosity and desire to know more. If it involves helping others learn, I love trying it out. I am an expert at learning and at setting up engaging educational experiences, at connecting people to the resources they need, and connecting people to other people. It’s so much more fun that way!

Teaching isn’t about the technology, even when it is about the technology. It’s about getting students to trust you enough to let you lead them on an educational journey that takes them outside of their comfort zone because that’s where the real growth happens. It’s about being willing to learn alongside them and to learn from them. It’s about connecting to individual dreams and desires and helping them develop their own personal learning network.

Teaching gives me powerful mentoring opportunities and the chance to make a positive impact on the lives of my students. To me the most important role of a teacher is opening doors, showing options, engaging in dialogue, widening horizons. It’s not about transmitting knowledge to our students. It’s about showing them the power of ideas.


Join Our Team

Interested in joining a top-notch team driven by curiosity, excellence, hard fun, and purpose? Take a look at our internship and employment opportunities!


What is the Curious Kids Tech & Science program?

NOTE:  Curing COVID-19 to maintain compliance with state and local recommendations for classroom safety, Innovation Academy has opted to remain online during the fall 2020 semester.  We realize this is FAR from optimal for many of our students who need a high level of interaction to inspire curiosity.  Our hope is to return to face-to-face classes as soon as possible, but for the present, we are working to provide the best learning at a distance we can provide.  So the following description will be available again when we return to the classroom.

Are you looking for an all-around hands-on STEM program? Are you willing to partner with us as we seek to create the best learning environment and experience for your student? For students who love tech, science, math, and engineering, and who are ready to step-up their game, this might just be the place for them!

Innovation Academy offers all-day drop-off programs for students who are especially interested in STEM subjects and highly motivated to learn, in conjunction with our Curious Kids classes

In addition to the classes, we offer science and leadership lab times, more capable peer time, a Fitness4Life catalyst to encourage health, and a book club to encourage reading for curiosity and big ideas. 

Program Objective

Our goal is to help curious kids develop an “innovator mindset”** that will help them succeed regardless of the path they choose in the future. To that end, we very carefully craft educational experiences to motivate, inspire, and engage students up into higher-level learning and character development. Our all-day program is not a drop-off “babysitting” service. We expect a lot from students and ask that their parents be as engaged in their learning path as we are 🙂

Days and Times

Aspiring Innovators will meet on Thursdays and Fridays. Please arrive 10 minutes before the start of class and plan on picking up your student on time. Arrangements can be made for earlier drop-off or later pick-up with an additional fee. If a class is missed, there are no make-up days available.

  • 1st-4th graders: 9am-2pm (unless an older sibling is in an afternoon class)
  • 5th-12th graders: 9am-3:15pm

Each day is split into three class or lab segments, with a 30 minute morning snack break and a 45-60 minute lunch break. See Session 01 and Session 02 block schedules for specific classes and times.

Snacks and Lunches

Students will need to bring a snack and lunch that doesn’t need refrigeration. We encourage kids to get outside and engage in physical activity – stretching the body helps stretch the brain! Unless there is severe weather, we will always let the kids go outside to play, so plan on having them dress appropriately. All breaks are well-supervised by our wonderful staff.

Code of Conduct

We expect all students to adhere to our Code of Conduct:

Everyone likes learning in an environment that is fun, safe, and engaging. You can do your part to make this happen when you live out the 4 B’s…

  • Be NICE!

We expect all Curious Kids to behave in an appropriate manner while at Innovation Academy activities and we will do our best to help you remember. However, if continued problems occur, our responses may range from polite reminders to permanent exclusion from the session. We’ve never had to send a student home and we’d love to keep our perfect track record!

How are the program activities organized?

The Curious Kids Aspiring Innovator Program will offer up to 10-12 hours a week (5-6 hours a day, up to 2 days a week) of specialized instruction, inspiration, and innovation. Classes will be offered in 6-week sessions from September through May, with time off in between sessions to allow for maximum flexibility for homeschool families. Weekly activities will fall into these categories:

  • Developing New Skills: Curious Kids Classes. Our classes are designed for hands-on exploration of the world as well as for individual pacing and learning. We select technical and creative topics with relevant technology and deliver in a project-based learning format.
  • Prototyping and Skill Practice: Science, Engineering, and Leadership Labs. Time for students to apply the concepts learned in class or to work on an idea they have.
  • Free Association: Outdoor Play. Playing is one of the 13 habits of geniuses listed in the book “Sparks of Genius” by Bernstein and Bernstein.
  • Genius Hour: Big Ideas Club. Every week, we will spend time together learning from big thinkers by reading their big ideas.
  • Data Sharing: Teacher Consultations. Once or twice a session, we are setting aside time for parents and students to ask questions, share ideas, and connect with our teachers. Of course, we encourage parents to connect with us anytime they have a question or concern.

Curious Kids Tech & Science Tracks

Introductory Engineering (K-4)

Young minds need loads of new experiences to push and grow. Students grow brain cells by using their hands to explore gears and levers, simple machines, sensors, robots, and a host of other tech topics.

Introductory Science (K-4)

Science is a subject shrouded in mystery, but it is really just curiosity guided by a system called the “scientific method”. We will explore many different hands-on science experiments, but at the core, we will learn how to apply the scientific method at every turn. It will be a blast (hopefully not literally!).

Creative Tech and Science (K-4 & 5-12)

Young innovators and designers find new inspiration and excitement using technology as a tool in the design process. We explore electronic textiles, art in 3D, math in art, upcycled technology, and other intersections between the worlds of art and technology.

Everyday Science and Engineering (K-4 & 5-8)

Your growing young innovator is curious about all those devices around the house and everywhere else in their world. By exposing the inner workings of everyday life like network routers, chemistry in the kitchen, internet-connected widgets, the insides of devices, and other everyday things, young innovators begin forming maps in the brain for how their world works.

Advanced Technology (6-12)

The teen brain is one of the most agile, powerful processing platforms on the planet. In fact, their brain is 25% faster than the world’s fastest supercomputer! In Advanced Technology, we take teens on journeys into drone hacking, coding/apps, using Linux, games for geeks, and other topics where engaging deeply uncovers new universes.

Advanced Science (6-12)

Science is so much more than ideas in a book. We will do hands-on experiments and explore many different techniques used to isolate the core idea in each. Above all, we will learn that science, just like every other subject, is created by people and hence malleable to new discoveries and novel ideas.

Schedule: Fall 2020 - Session 01

To avoid the rush to push all our kids back online in the fall, Innovation Academy has opted to hold only one session this fall (session 02).  We believe students need less screen time and more play time, outside time, and thinking/reading/building time.  We know this is a challenging season for all of us, and we encourage all our families to slow down rather than rushing back into the fray. 

This change of world events has been hard on all of us, and we need to have compassion on ourselves and on our kids.  We keep hearing families say, “We don’t want our kids to get behind.”  To which we feel the need to ask, “Who are our kids getting behind?”  Is there anyone on the planet who is actually not being affected?  How many horror stories have we heard now about some school plan that seemed good in theory but turned out a disaster?  Seriously!  There is no rush.  In fact, kids learn best when they are NOT rushed or pushed.

In this crazy global fiasco, the best thing we can do is take a deep breath and let our kids read that book they’ve been meaning to read or build that project lurking unfinished in the corner for a year or any of a dozen other things they have been putting off.  This is an optimal time for our kids to slow down and ask, “What would I REALLY like to learn about?”  Perhaps your kids have been talking about building a model train or learn to program or discover how an engine works.

This is the perfect time to dial down the pressure and focus in on some deep learning rather than rushing off to the next lesson or class or activity.  Rushing tends to drive shallow or surface learning, while taking time to go deep on a subject, often requires unstructured and un-rushed opportunities to explore all the different angles of a hard challenge.  What better time than the present when we are being asked to stay at home anyway?

So we are offering ONE session this fall with a number of breaks planned in on purpose to allow our families and students time to assimilate the lessons learned.  Scroll to the next section and see what Innovation Academy is offering for our Curious Kids Classes this fall.

Schedule: Fall 2020 - Session 02

Ready to Register!

Now registering for Fall CKTS Classes!

Sign up here for a notification when Spring 2021 registration is available.


Curious Kids Tech & Science session 02 classes will be online, but they are NOT like other online classes.  We took the lessons we learned from our online classes in the spring/summer and chose classes we knew would work well online.  We are offering much more for our middle and high school students than for our K-5 students, and this is BY DESIGN. 

Younger students should NOT be in front of a screen for hours at a time, and if they have one day a week where they are on Zoom a lot, they should have the rest of the week to try out the ideas and insights they got from their interactions with teachers and friends.

A lot of thought has gone into our classes for the fall, and we are again offering–as is our habit–the best learning we know how to create given the materials and environment.  The Zoom environment has limitations, and so we have created an ONLINE LEARNING PORTAL designed with students in mind. 

We strongly recommend parents of K-5 students to be involved in the learning process to help them use the online resources.  There are projects to do at home, videos explaining ideas, and demonstrations to show how to do things.  And if stuff doesn’t work, our learning portal has an EASY TO FIND help desk feature anyone can use to get help from someone on our staff.

Families with middle and high school students (6-12th grades) will find our activities this fall are designed to inspire creativity while at home.  We’ll be hosting an Art Fair at the end of the art class.  We’ll be taking students on a fantastic journey to learn computer programming through at least THREE DIFFERENT methods (Minecraft, JavaScript, and Turtle Art).  These experiences will be augmented by Creative Engineering, Internet 101 (safety, practical skills, and how to use it), and Music Tech (perhaps the BEST CLASS we may offer this fall!).

We decided that IF we HAVE TO BE ONLINE, we might as well do it better than it’s ever been done.

2020 Fall Schedule & Class Descriptions

–Session 02 Thursday Class Dates: October 1, 8, 22, 29 / November 12, 19
–Session 02 Friday Class Dates: October 2, 9, 23, 30 / November 13, 20

Break Weeks for better learning:  Oct. 12-16 (Snowline Fall Break) and Nov. 2-6

This sessions classes will be at a 10% discount from our normal prices. We normally charge $195 per class, but we’ve decided to offer the classes for $175 each. On top of the discount, we are offering an additional discount for families who opt to take more classes with us. After every three classes, we’re offering a 4th class for free. So hop on over to the CKTS Registration Form and get started.

The Yellow Class Names are for Curious Kids in grades K-5. The Green Class Names are for Curious Kids in grades 6-12. The Blue Class Name is for Curious Teens in grades 8-12. See the Descriptions in the link above for more details. 

2020 Fall Schedule – Session 02

Fall 2020 CKTS schedule with zoom room information

Note about recommended grade levels

Grade level recommendations can be somewhat flexible depending on the maturity of the student. We would be happy to discuss specifics with parents who have questions about what might be appropriate for their students. 


Class Descriptions (in reverse grade order)

Note:  High school students needing A-G credit are encouraged to speak with the instructors for proper articulation of concepts and necessary work at home.


Class Descriptions (grades 8-12)

Legit Coding
Ever wonder how webpages do the cool things they do? In this class, we’ll be taking a trip into the land of JavaScript along with a little HTML and CSS. Most of the big platforms we use on a daily basis use JavaScript for their primary front-end coding. The coolest part? No special programs required! Anyone with a text editor and a browser can start learning to program in JavaScript.  We’ll even code a game or two. This is a serious class originally designed for college students, so get ready to level-up!


Class Descriptions (grades 6-12)

Internet 101
Do you ever wonder if your student knows enough to be a safe and savvy citizen on the internet? We often forget to consider the internet as its own country with its own rules. In this class, we’ll be exploring what kinds of resources are on the internet (hint: WAY more than social media!). Basics like good passwords along with safe and secure habits are just the beginning. This class started as a college class, but we’re offering it here for teens and parents who want to know how to use the net better.

Creative Engineering
Do those two words seem a little at odds? Not to us! Great engineers and scientists have always been the most creative, and in this class, we’ll be exploring tools we can use to inspire more creativity. Great minds have been considering the essence of creativity, for decades at least, and there are now some great hooks and processes we can use to generate more sparks in our innovative thinking. Get ready for a Design Thinking odyssey.

Music Tech
Did you know music and math are close cousins? Music and engineering technology are also part of the family! We’ll be exploring the fundamentals of how music is made along with the math, science, and engineering of what makes a tune or a good instrument. If you like music AND you like engineering and science, you have come the right class! Sign up for Music Tech today.

Astronomy (6-12)
Does your student like to gaze into the night sky or imagine what’s inside stars? The astronomy class is just the thing for you. We’ll be looking at star maps, constructing stars from the inside out, and learning how astronomers know things like distance, magnitude, and spectra. Not sure what those things are? Sign up today, and open a whole new universe to your students. This class is designed specifically for 6-12 grade students.

Turtle Art (6-12)
Tired of your computer being a consumption device lately? Sign your student up for Turtle Art and turn that computer into a creative construction device instead. Turtle Art is a simple program designed to introduce kids to art of programming–literally, it combines BOTH programming AND art. It is one of the coolest tools we use to teach the basics of instructing a computer how to run. Your student will be having fun, being creative, and learning cool stuff all at the same time. This class is offered at two different grade levels, but kids of all ages (and the adults who teach it) fall in love with the challenge and fun of creating beautifully satisfying patterns with code.

Choices in Art
Art is about exploring materials to express an idea, concept, emotion, or story. In this course, we will do guided activities to stimulate creativity and expose you to thinking with materials you already have in your homes. There will be team activities to create an understanding of a few key concepts necessary to then work on your independent project. Each student will be asked to propose their project to the group, receive feedback, and continue to produce it into the final piece. There will be a combination of class lab times, presentation times, and individual meetings with the teacher to support each student artist as they progress to the final outcome of an Art Fair presentation online at the end of the term.

Engineering in Minecraft®
Enough said… Students love this Club.  It continues to be one of our most popular offerings.  AND it is SO MUCH MORE than just playing games.  In the process of building and exploring the Minecraft worlds, our staff lead the students on impressive challenges to test their ingenuity and creativity.  Specifically, we will be developing something called “computational thinking”.  Every week, there is a task to inspire students to think bigger and try on new engineering skills (mechanical AND electrical engineering concepts).  Sign your student up today. They will thank you for it.


Class Descriptions (grades K-5)

Stem Storytelling (K-5)
Take a fun filled look into fantastic literature then follow it up with fabulous projects. This class will look at the ever growing STEM picture book genre and focus on one book per week. After completing the reading, the students will be invited to participate in hands on projects that will be engaging and open ended.

Astronomy (K-5)
Does your student like to gaze into the night sky or imagine what’s inside stars? The astronomy class is just the thing for you. We’ll be looking at star maps, constructing stars from the inside out, and learning how astronomers know things like distance, magnitude, and spectra. Not sure what those things are? Sign up today, and open a whole new universe to your students. This class is designed specifically for K-5 students.

Turtle Art (3-5)
Tired of your computer being a consumption device lately? Sign your student up for Turtle Art and turn that computer into a creative construction device instead. Turtle Art is a simple program designed to introduce kids to art of programming–literally, it combines BOTH programming AND art. It is one of the coolest tools we use to teach the basics of instructing a computer how to run. Your student will be having fun, being creative, and learning cool stuff all at the same time. This class is offered at two different grade levels, but kids of all ages fall in love with the challenge and fun of creating beautifully satisfying patterns with code.

Ready to Register!

Now registering for Fall CKTS Classes!

Sign up here for a notification when Spring 2021 registration is available.


Is there homework (aka - how can we do more of this at home?)


Our online classes will be using an online learning portal.  This portal is specifically designed to be easy to use.  K-2 students may need a little help if they are beginning readers, but 3-5 students should be able to navigate semi-independently.  Middle and High School students will find the platform quite easy to use.

Our learning portal has activities specifically designed to be done OUTSIDE of class Zoom times, and should mostly be independent of whether a student even attends the Zoom sessions.  Each of our online classes has a component in our portal, and these outside of class components are where MOST of the learning takes place.  Zoom is mostly for show-and-tell and discussions.

BE SURE to take full advantage of your Innovation Academy CKTS experience by using our online learning portal.

During Normal Classroom Operations

(ie. NOT during COVID, but useful to know)

Each student will receive a binder where they can keep class materials and the weekly “Take Home” sheets. On the take-homes, we include an overview of what was done in class that day as well as Try At Home activities. This allows for continued exploration of the class topics as well as extended learning in areas of interest.

For the older Curious Kids, the Try At Home activities give students a chance to practice essential skills if they want to become proficient in the topic area (for example: computer programming). We do our best to select activities that utilize materials most families already have at home or have easy access to so that there isn’t a financial roadblock to continued learning. We always love to see pictures of what students are doing at home so make sure to share them on our Inspiring Innovators parent group on Facebook!

Can we take individual classes or come one-day a week?

Note:  During COVID-19, all-day options are not available, but read on to see how we strive to accommodate families.

Yes, absolutely! We love options so we like to offer options. Students can enroll in individual classes, in all-day one day a week, or apply for special permission for all-day two days a week. 

Every student and every family is different.  We strive to offer flexible options for our participating families.  Learning should always be tailored to the student, and your experience at Innovation Academy should be no different.



How do we register?


Ready to enroll? Complete the Registration Form for individual classes, one-day, or two-day programs. Have more questions? Go to the Interest Form.


Charter Students: You must request an enrichment certificate or purchase order from your charter school of record AND fill out Innovation Academy’s registration form. Your child will not be enrolled in classes at IA if you do not complete the IA registration form and we have not received their certificate or PO by the first day of class. Please follow up with your HST to ensure everything has been submitted and processed in time.

Independent Homeschoolers: Once your registration is received and accepted, we will invoice you via PayPal or you may make arrangements to pay by check.

*Please note – completing the registration form does NOT guarantee a spot in the program. We have a limited number of spaces available and will do our absolute best to accommodate as many students as possible. We want to ensure the best possible experiences for all of our students and strive to keep student-teacher ratios low.

When do classes begin?

We offer four six-week long sessions during the regular school year – two in the fall and two in the spring. Our 2019-2020 schedule looks like this:

  • Spring Session 01: giving families time to de-stress, no classes.
  • Spring Session 02: October 1 – November 20 (with 2 one week breaks)

Where are classes held?

COVID-19 NOTE:  While restrictions continue to be in place, Innovation Academy classes will remain online.  This is not our preferred method, but we believe TRUE ONLINE EDUCATION can be just as fun and engaging as face-to-face even though some of the activities and materials may be limited.

Normally (not during a global pandemic), classes will be held at the Pinon Hills Community Center in Pinon Hills, although we are currently in search of a larger facility in the High Desert because we are GROWING!

Students in our classes come from all over the region, from Lancaster to Lucerne and from Barstow to Rancho. We’ve even had students come over from Castaic! We have a wonderful parent group on Facebook that can facilitate carpooling connections if driving is a concern. Parents tell us it’s well worth the trip for their Curious Kids!

What ages/grades can attend?

The individual Curious Kids classes are available for students in K-12th grade. The Full-Day options are available for students in 1st-12th grades (except during global pandemics :).

For specific classes, grade level recommendations can be somewhat flexible depending on the maturity of the student. We would be happy to discuss specifics with parents who have questions about what might be appropriate for their students. 

How much does it cost?

The individual, one-day, and two-day options are available to all area students. We accept purchase orders/certificates from many CA charter schools and can take a combination of enrichment funds and cash/check payments. We offer flexible payment options for independent homeschoolers and charter families that have insufficient enrichment funds to participate (check, PayPal, payment plans).

    • Individual classes are $195 ($175 this fall, with 4th class free) per 6-week session
    • The one-day program is $475 per 6-week session (not available currently)
    • The two-day program is $900 per 6-week session (not available currently)

Plan ahead!
Most charters allocate between $2600 and $2800 in funds per year, during normal years. Students can participate in a one-day program for each of the two fall session and each of the two spring sessions for only $1900! That leaves an additional $500-700 per year for curriculum or other activities!

What charter schools do we serve?

We are approved vendors for many of the Southern California charter schools, including Compass, EPIC, Excel, Gorman, iLead, Granite Mountain, Sage Oak, and Sky Mountain.

If your school is not on the list and you would like us to register as a vendor there, please send Debby (debbyATdevelopinginnovatorsDOTcom) a message with the vendor info link from your school website.

I have more questions!

We love questions! If you have a question, chances are other people do also, so it might even be something we can add to the page here!

One of the best ways to make sure we see your question quickly is to send a message through our Facebook page. That’s one of the easiest ways to for us to keep track of questions and responses. There are LOTS of ways to Contact Us so don’t hesitate to let us know what you need to know 😀

Ready to Register!

Now registering for Fall CKTS Classes!

Sign up here for a notification when Spring 2021 registration is available.

Curious Kids Tech Series and Specialty Program




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