ALGONQUIN – District 300 high school students are learning from some of the world’s most influential designers and innovators this week through the Cusp Conference in Chicago.
Jacobs, Dundee-Crown and Hampshire high schools are live streaming the two-day conference to their juniors and seniors in hopes of sparking creativity and engagement in their students.
The Cusp Conference is at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago on Wednesday and Thursday, and it includes presentations from professors, artists, designers and other innovators who share big ideas and projects they have worked on.
“It really just gives you energy,” said Jacobs High School art teacher Carolyn Washow, who has attended the Cusp Conference in person twice. “It kind of refreshes your idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing and how to be excited about your own life. That’s what we’re hoping for the kids, that the energy that those people bring up on the stage is transmitted out into the audience.”
Live streaming the conference to the three high schools costs $7,500 and was paid for by a grant from the District 300 Foundation. Washow said the conference is a good investment and allows students to think about problems in ways they haven’t before.
“When you stop and think about it, a ticket off the street [to Cusp] right now for an adult is $1,900,” Washow said. “We get it for the whole district for what it would cost five adults to go see it.
“People who have thought out of the box are changing the world as we know it. [Cusp] should be inspiring, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Bringing the conference to the high schools was an idea spearheaded by former District 300 Foundation Trustee Diane Magerko, who first learned about the project from Multiple Inc., a company originally located in West Dundee that now produces the Cusp Conference.
“This has been a couple of years in the works,” said Mary Gross, administrative assistant for the District 300 Foundation. “We figured a live-feed idea would serve the most kids.”
Amy Pieniazkiewicz, division head of fine arts, music and world languages at Jacobs, said the conference is designed to push the school’s honors and AP students to think critically and creatively.
“We’ve had some student and teachers going for a few years,” Pieniazkiewicz said. “They come back really impressed and motivated. They’ve gotten some pretty amazing ideas about thinking outside the box and creating things.”