Last week while dropping off my daughter at her STEM elementary school, I was struck by the sight of about 40 fourth and fifth graders crowded around their teacher on the playground. School hadn’t officially begun for the day. Other younger students were playing boisterously or chatting with friends and yet all of these students were intently focused on their teacher -- both his words and actions as he began to remove a recently emerged Monarch butterfly from his net enclosure. I only caught a few of the teacher’s words as he wasn’t speaking like a presenter, but instead more conversationally as a fellow naturalist alongside the students on their journey to discover the transformation of the Monarch butterfly. Some of the students were asking questions and those who weren’t were listening to the responses.
Intriguingly, the butterfly, like the children, didn’t want to leave the teacher’s side. The teacher provided some hypotheses for why the butterfly was reluctant to depart for his great migration and suggested placing the butterfly on a flower in the nearby garden. So the entire group walked ceremoniously to the garden and the teacher placed the butterfly on a flower. They watched for a moment and then proceeded back into school. The scene prompted discussions among a few parents who were observing the events and again I was struck by the power of this moment, especially for the students.
At Pathways High last week, a similar moment occurred for students in the Urban Landscape seminar. Their teacher, Angelique Byrne, took them to the Guest House, a Pathways High Impact partner, to help harvest vegetables from their garden. For some students, this was the first time they were seeing what vegetables look like before they reach the grocery store. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the students were able to connect with their classmates as they worked alongside one another, immediately seeing the fruit (or in this case, vegetables) of their labor. Please see the photos below. Giving back to one’s community makes a powerful impact on the giver as well as the receiver.
Perhaps it’s more obvious now what Monarch butterflies and digging in dirt have in common. According to Chip and Dan Heath, co-authors of The Power of Moments, they both could be described as positive defining moments or peaks. These peaks influence our perspective and our lives and are what’s remembered for years to come. As described in The Power of Moments, peaks are created from one or more of the following elements:
Chip and Dan Heath state, “We must learn to think in moments, to spot the occasions that are worthy of investment.” I believe students and teachers would benefit greatly from building more peaks into the significant time invested at school. According to the Heath’s, building peaks isn’t costless. Clearly, if it were quick and easy there would be a lot more peaks at school. Thinking in moments and building peaks takes time and effort. The Heath’s share the components of elevating a moment as follows:
I’m certain teachers and students, alike, have many ideas for building peaks at school. In fact, many inspiring projects at Project Based Learning, STEM, Montessori and some traditional schools in Milwaukee and across the country are peak moments for students. However, they are not the norm and some teachers and students may feel they don’t have the time nor permission to execute their ideas for building peak moments. As an educational community, let’s make the conscious effort to invest in these moments so that education isn’t only “occasionally remarkable and mostly forgettable.” Please share the peak moments you and your colleagues are building at your school in the comment section below.
Chip Heath will be a Keynote speaker at the ExcelinEd conference this December in Washington, DC.
Welcome to our new blog! The Tipping Point.
If you haven’t seen the video “What is School For?” that went viral after it was released on Youtube last Monday, please check it out.
My 12-year old son was the first to share it with me and he’s been quoting lines from it ever since. The video resonated with him as it did the many people who have left comments. What struck me after watching the video is not the accuracy and eloquence of the message, but more that so many people believe our current K-12 education system squanders, instead of unleashes, diverse human potential and yet progress towards changing the system seems minimal. Why?
In full disclosure, Ted Dintersmith, the video’s producer, is my hero and his work with the documentary and book, Most Likely to Succeed, was the main reason I co-founded Pathways High. I believe Ted's intent has always been two-fold: 1) beat the drum about the need for change and 2) inspire and mobilize community members to change their schools (or start new ones) in order to create positive momentum and a tipping point. I think the tipping point is possible, but only if the success stories in all communities go viral and put pressure on those reinforcing the status quo to change. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to complain and many of us enjoy complaining. The hard part is doing the work of change and then taking the time when you’re already exhausted to document the successes. But we must. We (everyone at Pathways High, other progressive schools and those in traditional schools who are trying new approaches to benefit students) have to do our part to tell the positive stories and lots of them and help them go viral. As they say, nothing succeeds like success.
Demonstrating success in the new model of education, one that is engaging, relevant, learner-centered and supports students in developing skills for their life now, not just their future requires different metrics than those used in our current system. We know that standardized test scores aren’t accurate predictors of success and, consequently, are no longer required by many colleges and universities for admission. We can look to thought leaders in our past and present for more useful metrics. Today, an organization that is leading the effort to transform how U.S. high schools measure student achievement, is the Mastery Transcript Consortium. Performance as measured by portfolios of work is an essential component of an education model that mirrors the real world. When exhibition of student work is integral to a school, the successes will be evident. In the world outside of school we are judged by the quality and timeliness of our work. Why should school be different? What stories do you have about the real work your students are doing -- work that inspires others, work that benefits their school, neighborhood or global community? Make the effort to share these stories in any format you can so we can reach a tipping point.
Finally, a critical factor in reaching the tipping point more quickly is for the adults in students lives -- their caregivers, teachers and school leadership -- to take an honest look at their own mindsets. The majority of adults are products of a traditional education system and for many of us this system served us well. Change requires a conscious effort to step outside one’s comfort zone to think about how our own experiences create a limited lens through which to view school today. Understanding our own biases and broadening our perspective on school to include a place (both physical and virtual) for students to engage in solving problems that impact them and their community is essential.
I’m excited to share the perspectives of two Pathways High teachers, Angelique Byrne and Megan Goers, who have developed and continue to develop multidisciplinary seminars based on this broader perspective of school. I hope you enjoy the podcast interview of Angelique and Megan by Joe Scanlin, Founder and CEO of Scanalytics, about the teachers experience at MIT’s NuVu Innovation Lab.
Special shoutout to Pathways High student Sophia McLees who edited this podcast.
Today we had time to prototype our Synethesia City Projects. The experts at NuVu emphasized the process they used with students. The process is heavy on sketching, prototyping a rough prototype, critiquing, redesigning and re-prototyping, making more finished models and lastly adding electronic elements. This post will give you an idea of what students could create with us soon!
Sensory Treat Truck: Our team decided to create a mobile iteration of our “sensory treat” idea. In this more developed version, we envision a truck that can park along any city block. The location would move from day to day, in a random or unpredictable fashion. While parked, the truck creates a wall facing the pedestrians on the sidewalk. The wall would have several different functions that could modify the sensory experience of the pedestrians passing by. The truck would be outfitted with a sensor pole that would extend up and over the city street, capable of detecting the movement of traffic below. Real time information tracked from cars, trucks, buses and bicyclists (like length or height of the vehicle, amount of sound produced, amount of pollutants being emitted) would be converted into a new format displayed on the wall of the truck. In other words, the traditional sights, sounds, smells of a bustling city street would manifest in a new sensory form for the pedestrians passing the “Sensory Treat Truck.”
Possible Traffic Triggers with Corresponding Sensory Wall Functions:
*Pollution emissions are translated into a color changing panel that will be continually changing with the fluctuation/variety of vehicles passing by.
*Height and length of vehicles would be translated into sounds coming from speakers embedded in the sensory wall. For example, a 12’ high truck that is 24’ long would translate into a C-note that lasts for the duration of its passing beneath the sensor, while a bicycle whizzing by might be a second long A-note.
*Sounds of vehicles could translate into light on the sensory wall. For example, a truck that is backing up might be making a loud BEEP BEEP BEEP, which would manifest as a pulsating and syncopated blue light on the wall.
Power Source: Solar powered, panels mounted on the top of the mobile truck.
Angelique's Project: The Social Sensory Sidewalk Covers, 3SC. The concept behind this product is to socially and culturally engage people walking down city streets, waiting at bus stops, going to a restaurant, viewing a historical site and other city roaming activities. The structure will have a duel function as a space providing shade, cover from the weather, and/or barrier from the pollution or noise from the street combined with a sensory experience.
Each 3SC can have a different theme appropriate to the location. For example the model pictured is located at a bus stop. Since this location is more general the theme for this 3SC is social justice. Under the pavilion there are 6 rounded tube pillars. Each pillar represents a different topic of social justice: Civil Rights, Immigrant rights, LBTGQ rights, Woman's Rights, Global Human Rights, and Civil Liberties. There are bulletin boards and pamphlet holders for local groups to post information about meetings, getting involved, events and so on. When someone stands in front of a board a sensor will light up the rounded tube pillar to indicate someones interest. This could signal someone else with similar interests to strike up a conversation or the city/groups could track how many people are pausing to engage in this topic.
Other 3SC's might include more of a cultural bend. For example the 3SC could be located outside a cultural restaurant. To help people understand more about that culture the boards could instead be interactive boards with maps and time periods to click on. If the restaurant is an Indian restaurant you could click on different location in India and then select a time period and the screen would give you historical information, control music in the pavilion to align with that selection, show art and images of that selection. This concept could be focused on the history of the city, a specific local them such as local arts or music. The city or business choosing to purchase the 3SC can customize the pavillion for their needs.
Functional Aspects: The city or business can control the canopy to give more shade, give shelter from the weather and control the blocking of emission fumes by lowering and raising the canopy. The canopy is always translucent or transparent with some flow of the outside air. The pavilion is not a fully enclosed space or room, but a slight shelter from the outside environment.
Different models: The model could be a stand alone or connected to a building depending on your needs and sidewalk layout.
Today was amazing! We continued to prototype our designs from yesterday but we want to tell you about the other parts of our day. We toured two amazing Makerspace/fab lab/innovation labs and toured MIT's campus including an amazing piece of architecture by Frank Gehry and went to the MIT Museum.
**The Autodesk Build Space in South Boston:
This lab has to be one of the greatest on the planet! If you are not familiar with Autodesk, they make programs for people that make things. In education many people are using Autodesk Inventor and other engineering programs for students. This unique space has amazing machines on large scales open to residency groups at no cost. For example they have a 3D printer that can print up to a cubic meter! The makers in residence were creating amazing things including a 35 foot owl installation for a park out of corian (the stone countertop material), designing collapsible baby incubators for jaundice, creating prosthetics, wearable self-employed army tourniquets and hologram images for packaging and advertising. It was very inspiring to see how this makerspace could influence aspects of our future makerspace as well as unique ways to partner with our local businesses in the future. Check out this link for more info on Autodesk Build Space: www.autodesk.com/build-space
**Dassault Systems 3DExperience Lab: Dassault created programs such as Solidworks and Catia, an airplane modeling software. The 3DExperience Lab was equally amazing but on a much smaller scale, modeling something much more obtainable in an education or community setting. It has everything a maker could want! The lab has 3D printers of many types, including resin based, carbon infused, and traditional styles. It has laser cutters, reduction modeling tools, virtual reality, vinyl cutters, sandblasters, sewing and embroidery machines, silk-screening, wood-shop tools and more. Believe it or not, it was all in one room! This lab ran with the help of interns and co-op students from local universities. Dassault provides this lab for their employees to use for personal and research related work. Their future goals are to open up more options for start ups and public use. Hopefully some labs like this start to pop up in Milwaukee! Learn more here: www.3ds.com/
Of course, for us art teachers, seeing the Frank Gehry and the MIT Museum exhibit was also amazing! Frank Gehry is an art teacher favorite. The MIT exhibit was a retrospective of Santiago Ramon Y Cajal, a scientist that made amazing field journal drawings of the human brain and its inner-workings before the science was sound and before computer imaging or even MRI scanning came to be! His drawings were amazing works of art and proved to be scientifically accurate in comparison to modern computer images of the brain and nerves. Check out some pictures in our slideshow below. We can't wait to use the things we learned in upcoming seminars bringing this all together.
Today we had a lot to take in!
*The NuVu coaches provided a new prompt this morning that we will work on more in-depth over 3 days in small groups
*We learned more information on the nature of NuVu studios (similar to the concept of seminars)
*NuVu staff and innovation campers were given time to socialize after our work session in order to get to know educators from MIT, NuVu staff and people from around the globe involved at NuVu.
Day 2 prompt: Synethesia in the city of Cambridge.
The focus of today was interpreting the urban environment based on our senses and incorporating observations of the community, natural world and the built environment. We had 20 minutes to observe the 2 block radius around NuVu. We spent time standing on street corners with our eyes closed and ears open, observing the social interactions, or lack there of, and taking in the architecture and businesses of the city. It's amazing what you can experience when you are in tune with your senses and surroundings! We were asked to take this experience and think of something that would alter, enhance, or create pause, a new experience, a way to engage the senses, a solution to a problem, a way to bring people together or other sensory related innovations to the surrounding environment. After we got back from our sensory walk everyone pitched ideas for innovation designs. After hearing all the amazing ideas we paired up with someone with a similar concept and spent a small amount of time refining ideas.
Megan's Group: Our team focused on the challenge of sensory overload in a bustling urban setting, primarily on the depth and diversity of sound. We observed various layers of sound, such as industrial/construction, traffic from cars/trucks/buses, people-generated (conversations, shouting, arguments) and the occasional nature-related sound, such as the chirp of a bird, the scampering of a squirrel or the wind. The nature-inspired moments were few and far between but a welcomed "sensory treat" in stark contrast from the different sound being observed. We brainstormed possible solutions to modify the urban soundscape to provide pedestrians a different or altered sensory experience. One idea we came up with was to increase the amount "sensory treats" that could redirect your attention from industrial/traffic/people-generated sound to a nature-related sound. Expanding outward, the "sensory treats" could be experienced by more than just sound. Which led us to "sensory tunnels." Imagine a bustling busy street, loud, polluted, busy, overwhelming. On one side of the street, people walking on the sidewalk are activating sensors that alter the experience for the pedestrians on the opposite sidewalk through light, scent or sound. On the next city block, the activators become the experiencers of the altered sensory experience. This brainstorm session kept blooming, so tomorrow we will go through the next steps of creating model iterations of our ideas, keeping in mind our goal of modifying the urban soundscape for a more enjoyable urban experience.
Angelique's Group: Our idea stemmed from analyzing the layout of the street and pedestrian areas. Very typical, a busy street, a bike lane, a large sidewalk with bus stops, dinning in the open and lots of people. When our eyes were closed, or open, we noticed the emissions from cars, the noise from trucks and the other city sounds that were distracting from the amazing city. Our concept was inspired by the graffiti ally pictured below. We started with a barrier/canopy concept that would help block the unpleasant and secure the pleasant experiences of the city. We wanted to keep the natural light while giving some shade, give pleasant sounds and images that intrigue. Imagine a modern museum, art exhibit and sensory experience as you are in transit, waiting for the bus or strolling down the street. NuVu is surrounded by a melting pot of cultures due to the proximity of MIT and Harvard as well as the diverse permanent population. Our goal tomorrow is to come up with model iterations that will help teach empathy about each other through interactive, sound, and visual images integrated with the canopy/barriers. More to come... See the initial brainstorm images and inspiration below.
NuVu's philosophies will come back to Pathways High. Here are some highlights from today's learning:
"Seeing" Collectively: More eyes on a project lead to more ideas generate, ideas pushed to new iterations, more points of view understood.
Student Roles: Peer to peer collaboration across grade levels, across teams and within teams.
Beyond the Classroom: Community engagement, off-site learning, open studio invites to local experts, businesses, leaders in the community, local colleges, parents and consultants (sounds like Pathways!)
Always Connecting: Community, natural environment, built environments. Inquiry process is always intertwined with the studio/seminar theme and these concepts.
"The most valuable skill is your ability to learn."
We are so excited to be in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the NuVu Innovation Camp! The NuVu School is a high school that allows students to attend for a 2 week seminar, a full semester or to complete all 4 years of high school. NuVu focuses on Studio Lab Seminars that use their studio model. The studio model is very closely aligned with the design thinking process...our favorite process as art innovation teachers!
We spent the day practicing being students in a NuVu mini seminar. Seminars at NuVu start with a studio briefing, where the coaches present a real world problem to solve. Innovation is impossible unless you are solving a problem or reshaping an existing item, model, social construct, etc. Our problem to solve revolved around the negative effects of cell phone dependency and social media. We needed to come up with a product that would make a positive impact on society with this in mind. Below you can see our brainstorm, sketches, final product and overview. We can't wait to bring all these great processes back to Pathways High in the fall! You can read our pitch using this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cbUGTIgAkBIJWwCdTQ90--zF5cq2WAu4Ujae3qHIhp4/edit?usp=sharing
This past school year we found that our staff and leadership team needs more time to collaborate collectively. We are also focusing on a lot of professional development as we roll out our new high quality project based learning (PBL) program. To that end, for the upcoming school year we will be introducing early release on Monday's at 2:15 pm and roughly the third Friday of every month off for students. School hours will continue to be 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.
Over the next few weeks we will be sharing with you all of the exciting changes that the leadership team has been focused on. This will include our new approach to PBL, updated graduation requirements, course offerings and much much more. So stay tuned!
Download the Calendar Here
You are probably wondering who Ted Dintersmith is. Well let me backup because he is one of our favorites...
The last big change in the way we educated our kids happened over 125 years ago. Let that soak in. Think of everything that has changed since 1892 when the Committee of Ten made significant changes in how we educate our kids. Now, take it a step further and think of everything that has changed just since your child started Kindergarten. Our kids deserve to be prepared for this innovation revolution and not for the industrial revolution.
Ted Dintersmith is one of many education reformers that didn't just spark a global conversation about school reform he ignited it. He was the executive producer of the documentary Most Likely to Succeed and co-author of Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era. He recently came out with a new book What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration From Teachers Across America.
Thankfully we don't have a Committee of Ten this time around. We now have a global community of dedicated reformers, thanks to social media, who are making positive changes and sharing their experiences. We are not alone on the journey, in fact we are late to the game. Both the east and west coasts are at least 15 years ahead of Wisconsin in reforming education.
I encourage you to listen to this podcast from Modern Learners and Ted Dintersmith.
Where education unleashes students' potential.
Making the transition from a traditional environment to one like Pathways High is a complete shift in how you will view education in this innovation era. We will support you in the process by posting news about school happenings, articles of interest and more!