Meet Peter Johnson
Hello! I am the Innovative Arts teacher at Pine Island Middle School. I teach 5th-8th grade kids how to be creators of their own type. It is difficult for students to move from consuming to creating but the learning is worth it!
Before Innovative Arts, I taught 8th grade science, was an educational ambassador to the COP21 in Paris, taught in an inner city charter school, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and grew up on a small WI dairy farm.
My wife, Lisa, is a pastor and we have twin boys and a little girl. Life is crazy but we are both working to make a better world the best way we know how. I am most excited to be in a position to create a class that I very much want my own children to take.
Why are these resources free?
Free is the only price that works for most schools, teachers, and students. The people who will get the most value out of these resources will be able to access them.
As a teacher, I struggled to make free resources for my own classroom at night, over weekends and breaks. I would share with anyone who would ask. As I developed a blog and a website to share these resources, this site was born.
Who are the "supporters"?
Supporters keep this site alive! I began building Puzzle Shift Create in 2016 with funds from some summer library programs. I worked summers to afford developing Puzzle Shift Create and the Innovative Arts curriculum.
Thousands of hours and dollars later, it is clear that I cannot do it alone, especially after losing all of my summer income from COVID. Supporters help to pay for this website, bring new products in the Creator’s Co-op, help develop more free resources to give away on this site, and fund grants of supplies directly to teachers! (coming soon!)
Innovative Arts replaced “Technology Class” in Pine Island Middle School in 2018. The class is set in the school’s Fab Lab which already had vinyl cutters, 3D printers, CNC machines, and a laser cutter.
The focus of the class is not about how to use technology or machines. The focus is on how to solve problems, harness technology to create skillfully, and to become a creator of whatever type a student chooses.
Students begin the quarter-long class in 5th grade. For two years, kids are practicing with machines, attempting beginner projects, and learning about the creative process. In 7th grade, there are six creator courses to help them dive into becoming a creator. From then on, it is “Creator in Charge” and open-ended!
About the name
Our mindset, attitudes, and habits are all pieces of a messy puzzle in our brains. The goal is to help students learn more about these pieces and how they come together in their own lives.
Creativity is a skill we build. Passions are developed, not discovered. Habits can help or hurt you long-term. Our attitudes, mindsets, and expectations are largely within our control.
Technology is all around us and can be used for much more than gaming and watching videos. We need to shift how we use technology from a toy into a tool.
Kids can use the tech tools available to them to do amazing things, if we teach them how to use all the tools out there! Digital leaders share, encourage, and positively impact whenever possible.
We have the technology that each student can become a creator of real, original content. There is no substitute for tackling a project yourself.
As a teacher, I used to smooth out all the bumps and help each kid complete simple, identical projects. Learning how to tackle the bumps is the point though! Kids cannot create awesome stuff if we don’t let them struggle with authentic problems.