Category: Monday Message

March Is Arts Education Month! The Arts Matter at iLEAD

At iLEAD, we know that creating and exploring the world through arts experience enhances all subject areas for our learners.

Because arts education is an integral part of developing a whole education, iLEAD strives to provide high-quality arts education that not only stands alone as a core subject but is also incorporated into the project-based learning (PBL) mechanism of all subject areas. Whether it be through dance, music, theatre, media, or visual methods, in the iLEAD model the arts are often viewed as the thread that weaves the integration of multiple subject areas, as they mesh into the PBL process.

Participation in the arts facilitates intercultural awareness and develops an open-minded approach to learning and valuing different cultures. Coursework in the arts is naturally collaborative, making arts education the ideal vehicle for helping young people to become true 21st-century learners.

The arts cannot be learned through occasional or random exposure any more than mastery of math, language, or science concepts can occur without a strong foundation that builds and grows with a child’s learning. This is why we offer a curriculum rich in the arts for all grade levels.

The video above was the winning submission in the California Alliance for Arts Education Student Voices Campaign in 2016. It was created by iLEAD learner Mila Cuda with Miriam Sachs. Mila went on to be named the Youth Poet Laureate of LA County the following year.

From “Arts with the Brain in Mind” by Eric Jensen:

“The arts enhance the process of learning. The systems they nourish, which include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional, and motor capacities, are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning.”

Each year, iLEAD learners can be seen participating and sharing with the community their love of learning through the arts.

iLEAD learners have been showcased in galleries and have been honored with awards for their skill and ability in the arts. We are grateful to have a community that emphasizes the arts in education.

5 Reasons Why Schools Need Virtual Reality Education

Numerous studies have demonstrated a correlation between drama/theater involvement and academic achievement. In addition to having higher standardized test scores than their peers who do not experience the arts, student who participate in drama often experience improved reading comprehension, maintain better attendance records, and stay generally more engaged in school than their non-arts counterparts. Schools with arts-integrated programs, even in low-income areas, report high academic achievement.

“Virtual reality can be used to enhance student learning and engagement. VR education can transform the way educational content is delivered; it works on the premise of creating a virtual world — real or imagined — and allows users not only to see it but also interact with it. Being immersed in what you’re learning motivates you to fully understand it. It’ll require less cognitive load to process the information.” — Nick Babich

“At first glance, it might seem contradictory to bring virtual reality into a live theatrical performance. But with the theater world’s embrace of immersive, participatory experiences, and VR’s unique power to simulate immersion and offer agency, the merger makes sense. For the past several years, shorter projects like filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Carne Y Arena have been blending mixed-reality and performance, nurtured by an array of forward-thinking arts institutions in the U.S. and abroad. ” — Tal McThenia 

School isn’t what it used to be. Chalkboards have been replaced with SMART boards. Pencil and paper have become Chromebooks and tablets. It’s only a matter of time before virtual reality education can be found in every classroom across the country.

The benefits of this educational approach are endless. Virtual reality brings learners to another world — another level of understanding — right inside the classroom.

All students learn at a different pace and in different ways. Some are visual learners; others work best with hands-on stimulation or verbal commands. Virtual reality education will help bridge the gap between these learners.

Here are five reasons why schools need to consider and implement this revolutionary form of teaching.

Make Learning Fun Again

How many of us have heard these words from a learner – “I’m bored.” Teachers work tirelessly to engage learners through interactive games and projects, group work, public speaking, and a multitude of other avenues. Often their efforts fall flat.

To say virtual reality would make the class interesting again is an understatement. It would also allow teachers to bring lessons to life. Students would experience hands-on, real-life encounters that will prepare them for the future.

Memorable Experiences

Imagine transporting a child to the ancient ruins of Pompeii, the sunken wreck of the Titanic, or the Great Wall of China. No school budget could sustain these adventures, but virtual reality education can make it happen! Children would have the opportunity to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Virtual reality can also help prepare students for the future workforce by teaching real-life skills. A scenario designed around a current lesson on topics such as specialized training, vocational jobs, or nursing can be “practiced” and experienced using this technique.

Technology is the Future

Technology has transformed the classroom in recent years. Students have gone from passive learners to active learners. There’s no denying that to be successful in the 21st century, students need practical technological skills.

It’s not often you see a child under the age of 4 that isn’t swiftly navigating a tablet faster than any adult. The benefits of virtual reality are, in fact, a reality!

Virtual Reality Education Bridges the Gap of Learners

Because most students can easily navigate virtual reality, they feel accomplished. It’s a rewarding experience, which means a positive one. If children feel confident in their ability to learn, they will continue to seek out further enriching experiences.

A student can also be whoever they want to be in the virtual reality world. Race, gender, and age don’t matter. They are free to be themselves and feel accepted. This new method of learning opens up doors for learning in new and different ways.

Promotes Creativity and Curiosity

Virtual reality education puts power in the hands of the learner. They are allowed to make decisions and adjustments in the alternate “universe.” Students experiment with their creativity, prompted by their curiosity about how things work.

All these factors link to critical thinking and increased retention. The entire experience brings learning to another level.

So if you’re hesitant about what role virtual reality can play in the classroom, just take a look at some of the benefits listed. According to

According to a survey conducted by Samsung, 93% of teachers in grades K-12 said their students would be excited about using virtual reality in the classroom, and 83% said virtual reality might help their student’s educational outcomes.

Those are some impressive percentages and even more reason to give virtual reality education a chance!

TED Talk: Turning Students into Scientists

In this short TED Talk, entrepreneur and education activist Jessica Ochoa Hendrix discusses using low-cost virtual reality (VR) to bring learning to life.

“Extended reality has the potential to change the trajectory of our children’s lives and lead them to careers they never imagined by giving them the chance to see what they can be.”



iLEAD Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Curiosity

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles exploring the pillars and core principles of the iLEAD approach to education.

“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” — Golda Meir

Within the iLEAD education model, we believe that kids are more empowered to learn and retain knowledge when learning means asking questions. It’s because of that we reinforce the importance of curiosity as a component of social-emotional learning (SEL).

Simply put, curiosity is a strong desire to learn or know something — a search for information for its own sake.

Curiosity is frequently the engine that drives learning and achievement. Children are curious by nature and everything is a wonder to them. 

For curious learners, it’s less important to have the “right” answers and more important to create an environment where questioning and learning can occur. So how do we nurture curiosity in learners? We do it, in part, by modeling an interest in the world around us and asking open-ended questions. Through dynamic project-based learning, facilitators at iLEAD schools foster and develop kids’ natural inclination to be curious. Parents and facilitators alike nurture curiosity when they encourage learners to identify and seek answers to questions that pique their interests. 

A component of curiosity is uncertainty, but instead of that creating hesitation for learners it’s possible for it to fuel the learning process. There are several ways to respond to uncertainty, according to Jamie Holmes, author of “Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing.”

  • Address the emotional impact of uncertainty: “The emotions of learning are surprise, awe, interest, and confusion,” according to Holmes said. However, facilitators can help learners respond to these emotions by encouraging them to see uncertainty as an opportunity for learning. 
  • Adopt a non-authoritarian teaching style to encourage exploration, challenge and revision: By facilitating learning with a sense of curiosity and humanity, teachers can help students find ways to think and learn. Said Holmes: “The best teachers are in awe of their subjects.”
  • Show how the process of discovery is often messy and non-linear: Instead of simply presenting breakthroughs as logical results of long treks toward understanding, facilitators can share with students how discoveries are often made — through trial and error, missteps, “happy accidents” and chance.

So, knowing the importance of curiosity in learning, how do we stimulate that in learners? Developmental psychologist Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell has suggested several ways:

  • Value and reward curiosity in learners
  • Teach learners how to ask quality questions
  • Notice when kids feel puzzled or confused
  • Encourage learners to tinker with materials, thoughts, or emotions
  • Use current events as launchpads for conversation
  • Teach learners to have healthy skepticism
  • Explore a variety of cultures and societies
  • Encourage having curiosity outside of the classroom

We believe that when kids know how to be curious, they know how to think differently. When they know how to think differently, they’re empowered to be problem solvers who can change the world around them.

Still Curious?

“Curiosity. It’s the most powerful thing you own.”

Meet the iLEAD Synergy Board Members

Dr. Elizabeth D. Taylor spent her entire career advancing the learning development, and betterment of peoples around the world as a university professor and administrator,
business owner, visionary educational leader, media producer and author. She is the Founder and President of Wisdom-To-Go, a not-for-profit human potential organization.

For 30 years, she was a professor at several universities in the US and abroad teaching a variety of subjects in business management and organizational development. As a University Guest Lecturer, public speaker, seminar leader, executive coach and dialogue specialist, Dr. Taylor worked with corporate leaders and staff on leadership and progressive strategies, organizational effectiveness and transformation, diversity and women’s empowerment, conflict management, human resources management, life skills training, complex problem-solving, and vision work.

Dr. Taylor was a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for 7 years, discussing topics of the day concerning personal growth and development needs. In her research and quest for ever-expanding cogent knowledge. Dr. Taylor engaged indigenous communities abroad centering on personal growth and indigenous wisdom and spirituality in Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Hawaii, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. She was invited to facilitate ‘reconciliation’ dialogues in South Africa by the SA Minister of Education at the end of apartheid.

Dr. Taylor most recently spent over five years in the Middle East involved with an international campaign to educate, and uplift Saudi women, where she was a consultant and acted as a liaison between universities and corporations in the Kingdom to establish enrichment and educational programs for women.

Dr. Taylor holds a Ph.D. from the Union Institute & University in Organizational Psychology and Leadership, and a Master of Science from University of San Francisco in Human Behavior and Organizational Development. She is a specialist in Jungian depth psychology, metaphysics and mysticism, classical theories of human growth, behavioral sciences, and organizational development. She is an award-winning author with several books under her wings, including, “Straight Up! Teens’ Guide to Taking Charge of Their Lives”, for which Dr. Taylor received the American Library Award.

Under the Abaya is a colorful telling of Dr. Taylor’s 5-year immersion into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Formula 9: Fortified Conscious Living for Modern Generations was launched in 2017 as a university textbook. From its success among college students, it is now on the scene as a commercial resource for larger audiences.

iLEAD Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Growth Mindset

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles exploring the pillars and core principles of the iLEAD approach to education.

At the heart of iLEAD’s motto — “Free to Think, Inspired to Lead” — is a belief that challenges can help kids grow into the people they’re meant to be. As part of our emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL), we believe it’s important to develop what we call a growth mindset.

Let’s do a quick test. Do you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • My intelligence is something very basic about me that I can’t change very much.
  • I’m a certain kind of person and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
  • I often get frustrated when I get feedback from my performance.
  • Trying new things is stressful and I avoid it.

How we respond to these statements reveals whether we have a fixed or growth mindset. Many children are raised and exposed to situations that create a fixed mindset, which may seem harmless on the surface, but actually creates long-term challenges for them in school and in life, when they fear failure and tend to avoid challenges.

Conversely, children who have a growth mindset are more likely to learn from their mistakes, tackle challenges head on, and be motivated to succeed. 

Some contrasting statements may be helpful for bringing this into focus:

  • A growth mindset says: “Failure is an opportunity to grow.”
  • A fixed mindset says: “Failure is the limit of my abilities.”


  • A growth mindset says: “I can learn to do anything I want.”
  • A fixed mindset says: “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”


  • A growth mindset says: “Challenges help me to grow.”
  • A fixed mindset says: “My abilities are unchanging.”


  • A growth mindset says: “My effort and attitude determine my abilities.”
  • A fixed mindset says: “My potential is predetermined.”


  • A growth mindset says: “Feedback is constructive.”
  • A fixed mindset says: “Feedback and criticism are personal.”


  • A growth mindset says: “I like to try new things.”
  • A fixed mindset: “I stick to what I know.”

The development of a healthy growth mindset is all about helping kids realize and embrace their potential; and equipping them to be empowered and fueled by challenges, rather than hindered.

A growth mindset will intrinsically motivate children to improve, learn, and grow in school and all other areas of their lives.

Writing in Scientific American, psychologist Carol S. Dweck unpacked “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” and the importance of fostering a growth mindset, stressing the importance of seeing success as the result of hard work instead of simply inborn talent.

“When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability,” she wrote. “In contrast, students praised for their hard work did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed.”

Make no mistake, it is good to praise our children for their strengths and talents; but it is crucial to encourage them to see challenges as opportunities. If they can learn and embrace this at school age, there’s no telling what heights in life they may achieve. 

More on Growth Mindset

“Are we raising kids who are obsessed with getting As? Are we raising kids who don’t know how to dream big dreams? Their biggest goal is getting the next A, or the next test score? And are they carrying this need for constant validation with them into their future lives?” — Carol S. Dweck


Meet the Designers of Our VR Program

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to the designers of iLEAD Synergy’s VR (virtual reality) program, Al Caudullo and Russell Leavitt.

With Multiple 3D Awards, Al Caudullo has utilized his 39-plus years of video production experience as a foundation for immersive image capture and storytelling.

His career highlights include the 72nd Annual Academy Awards, the World Film Premiere of “Star Trek Insurrection,” and the 100th US Open PGA Golf Championship. During the Official Washington DC Millennium Celebration, Al served as special consultant and equipment supplier for President Bill Clinton. His 360 VR work includes Celestica, Getty Images 360, and Bill Gates Notes. His in-demand creative production adventures have taken him around the world to the farthest reaches. The Gobi Desert, Mongolia, China, Europe, Australia, and the USA are some places he has been called on to design innovative immersive productions.

Learn more about Al by visiting his website.

Russell is a VR producer and director whose work throughout the years has taken him into many forms of performance and visual arts. In addition to his VR work, he also teaches media online through sites such as Tophat, Udemy, and CEEDTV VR. His recent work includes productions for Oculus TV and San Francisco colleges and universities. His current work in 3D animation began in film and video production, producing and directing television programs for youth and children airing on regional public television stations and Warner affiliates nationwide. His studies in film and television began at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, with final degrees in Art from California State University with an emphasis in Computer Arts.

To visit Russell’s website click here.

We are so proud and thrilled to have these two experts as part of our team!

iLEAD Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Grit

Grit Passion Perseverance Persistence Word Collage 3d Illustration

Editor’s note: This is one in a regular series of articles exploring the pillars and core principles of the iLEAD approach to education.

“Grit is sticking with your future day in, day out and not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.” — Angela Lee Duckworth

What does it take to really succeed? Some might call it drive or determination. At iLEAD Schools, we like to call it grit, a crucial component of social-emotional learning. 

We define grit as “having courage and resolve, and strength of character.” Someone with grit works hard and passionately, sets goals, and follows through. Why is grit important? Because to truly accomplish goals and thrive, we need the ability to persevere. Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. That is why we believe it is so valuable to instill an understanding of grit early on in kids.

But how does one assess “grittiness”? A simple way is to see if you identify with some of these statements:

  • I enjoy projects that take time to complete
  • I am working toward a long-term goal
  • What I do each day is connected to my deepest personal values
  • There is at least one subject or activity I never get bored thinking about
  • Setbacks don’t discourage me for long
  • I am a hard worker
  • I finish whatever I begin
  • I never stop working to improve

Our approach to SEL has been deeply influenced by Angela Lee Duckworth, who has done extensive research in the area of grit. She suggests that one way to think about grit is to consider what it isn’t. 

Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.

Instead, grit is about having a goal about which you care so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. Further, grit means holding fast to that goal, no matter what. 

There are a variety of practical ways to foster grit in learners:

  • Help them see how their efforts can contribute to the well-being of others
  • Nurture a growth mindset; a belief that the ability to learn is not fixed
  • Ask them to set their own long-term goals
  • Focus discussions on effort, tenacity, and learning from failures. 

We believe as part of a curriculum that’s rich in project-based and social-emotional learning, when kids learn to model grit in their academic pursuits, that mindset will positively affect every area of their lives. 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

“Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” — Angela Lee Duckworth