UWM Hosts Zoo Train students, lets them break things

On Thursday UWM’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences hosted the first of three sessions for students in our Zoo Train challenge.  We met in the College’s new maker space where students from Franklin High School used short lengths of lath to assemble beams of various configurations.  With these in hand, students went from there to the structural testing lab where UWM faculty had students estimate the maximum load their beam design could support.  Each design was tested to the point of failure.

 

For round two, students went back to the maker space to design and assemble a five foot high tower from angle irons.  That tower was put under load in a different device to measure deflection.  The maximum load there was capped at twice the load the Zoo’s water tower needs to support.

UWM will host two more sessions to accomodate students from other schools. Thanks to the UWM team who made this happen: Chris Beimborn, Andrew Dressel, and Rahim Reshadi, and Avie Judes.

 

Collab Lab 24 Recap

Maps as a Point of Engagement

The idea for session came out of conversations we had last summer with Donna Genzmer and Kate Madison faculty members at UWM.  Kate and Donna run UWM’s  Power of Data Teacher Workshops. The Power of Data (POD) Project offers a 35 hour professional development program in mid-June that helps secondary teachers enhance existing lessons with Geospatial Inquiry.  Through NSF funding the program is both free for teachers and offers a stipend to participants.  We thought it would be useful to offer teachers interested in exploring how to leverage maps/Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools a chance to explore some ideas, and connect with resources early in the year so they might better be able to leverage the PODs training.

Milwaukee has a wealth of GIS talent at area universities, industries, and non-profits.  Our featured participants brought a broad range of expertise and practical knowledge in the use of GIS/spatial data analysis across a variety of domains.  We structured the session to allow participants to share their interests in exposing students to spatial data, explore ideas for potential projects, and solicit advice for how to make that happen.

That covered some pretty broad territory:

  • Neighborhood asset mapping
  • Macro economic data to map micro space
  • Conservation/spatial learning re Zoo animals
  • Connections to Math (social justice)
  • Viable composting sites
  • Linking environmental issues through maps
  • Past/present/future of place
  • Location of “good” landlords/housing
  • Location of bird houses
  • Parent pickup
  • Crime geography/address social justice
  • Locations for mobile maker space visits
  • Place of residence w/respect to school
  • Invasive/native plant distribution
  • Land and resource usemap
  • Suburban/urban agriculture
  • Watershed education
  • Green infrastructure
  • Food deserts
  • Location for community gardens
  • Data visualization
  • Develop GIS Apps w/IT/GIS skills
  • Freshwater connections
  • Connect people to water resources
  • Rainwater flow
  • Safety
  • Waste stream
  • Climate
  • Location of Companies

 

Upcoming workshops:

Milwaukee Community Map

Tuesday February 19th
4:30 to 5:30 PM
[email protected] – 908 S. 5th Street, Milwaukee
details 

PODS Workshops

UWM POD Workshop #1
June 3 — 7, 2019, UWM Library

UWM POD Workshop #2
June 17 — 21, 2019, UWM Library

details


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to Marvin and our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Emily Champagne – GIS Supervisor, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD)
Donna Genzmer, GISP – Director, Cartography & GIS Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Auriana Gilliland-Lloyd – Conservation Assistant, Bonobo & Congo Biodiversity Initiative, Zoological Society of Milwaukee
Lawrence Hoffman – GIS Program Manager, Groundwork Milwaukee
Beth Haskovec – Program Officer, LISC Milwaukee
Kate Madison – Policy Analyst, UWM’s Center for Economic Development
Dr. Aleksandra Snowden Ph.D. – Assistant Professor Social & Cultural Sciences, Marquette University
Michael Timm – Reflo/Milwaukee Community Map

Number Talks Workgroup – January Recap

Our January session focused on what should happen between now and next fall for schools that want to expand the number of teachers using number talks as a regular practice or support an initial cohort of teachers willing to make that happen. Here’s where we landed:

Spring 2019

  • Introduce number talks in an in-school PD session for teachers new to the practice
    • Understand how teachers think about Number Talks
    • What are their goals for math lessons?
    • Where do they hope the practice might bring?
    • What do they fear might happen during number talks?
    • What do they value most in their current approach to teaching math?
    • What do they think is least effective in their current approach to teaching math?
  • Have a teacher or coach that is comfortable with Number Talks lead a session for the class of a teacher new to the practice
  • Have teachers try out the practice in their room with a coach or experienced teacher on hand to provide feedback
  • Participate in UWM’s Math Circle for Teachers
  • Line up funding for resources, PD
  • Identify teachers for pilot effort– the goal here is to require participation, but identify teachers who want to kick of the 2019-2020 school year with Number Talks as a regular practice.

Summer 2019

  • Script the first 20 days of number talks so that teachers new to the practice can focus on leading the practice rather than figuring out what problems to use.  Here teachers can tap into the work Brown Street Academy and LaCausa did to kick things off this year.
  • Assemble resources for teachers participating in effort
    • Reference materials
    • Anchor charts
    • Number Talks quick reference card
  • Number Talks PD just prior to the start of school
    • Teachers have a chance to both lead and participate in number talks
    • Teachers have a chance to practice charting student thinking
    • Teachers get a chance to preview strategies they are likely to see in their first 20 days of number talks

Fall 2019

  • Teachers use Number Talks 2-3 times per week starting the first week of the semester
  • Quick, frequent check-ins with in-school coach or teacher lead to address issues and concerns
  • Work with grade level groups to select problems focused on specific strategies to guide problem selection after the first 20 days of Number Talks
  • Participate in peer led PD with other teachers working with Number Talks

Want to be part of the Number Talks Workgroup?

I'd like to... (required)
ParticipateSupport the effort

Looking Back

It’s been almost three years since we started talking with folks about the change coming to education, the implications should Milwaukee lag behind, and what might be done to help move things along. We put together a brief manifesto that called for for connecting area educators who are doing interesting work to learn from each other, applying ideas from lean entrepenuriship and agile development to help educators seed the pace at which they are able to develop and implement innovative practices, and raising the visibility of that work.

Those early conversations led to a short series of workshops we ran in August of 2016.  We took what we learned there to kick off our Collab Lab series in earnest that October, with a session focused on maker spaces and Fab Labs. Our friends at The Commons were kind enough to loan us use of  space in Ward 4 for our initial pilots and the 21 Collab Labs that have followed as we reach the midpoint of our 3rd season.

Our roster of attendees now includes more than 400 individuals from public, private, and charter schools, universities, non-profits and area companies. The focus for a growing number of sessions have been topics which partners including Milwaukee Succeeds, M7, Marquette, UWM and other area organizations have asked us to cover. In January we’ll host our 24th Collab Lab in collaboration with faculty from UWM who have NSF funding to help teachers develop curriculum that leverages spatial data. The aim of this session is to identify projects on which schools might collaborate and help educators connect with expertise within the community well in advance of the UWM training so they can come well prepared to take full advantage of it.

Our hope when we started was to use the sessions to identify ideas that collaborative efforts could help move things forward. This has proved to be the case and we’ve run a number of experiments in different areas. Most notable of these have been around how we might develop an upcycling network to get excess material from industry available for use in school maker spaces. Our goal is to set this up as a network of student run business that can help build connections not just between schools, but between schools and the firms that surround them. Our efforts there include work with a number of schools and partners, among them MSOE, MIAD, The Commons, Goodwill, Discovery World, Betty Brinn, SHARP Literacy, and COA Youth & Family Centers.

Other experiments over the past couple of years have led to two major initiatives– an effort with Milwaukee Succeeds to address the dismal math performance in Milwaukee schools, and a set of engineering challenges for the Milwaukee County Zoo. Our math initiative is illustrative of our bottom up approach to driving change. We’ve been working with teachers and staff from MPS, private, and charter schools, with help from UWM faculty to understand what teachers need to make meaningful discourse a regular part of their math lessons– a practice that not only helps students build understanding of math concepts, but helps create a positive classroom environment and gives teachers a chance to experience more of the “Aha!” moments that energize them.

We have pilots running now with Brown Street Academy and LaCausa, where math coaches at each school are working with teachers who have chosen to make Number Talks a regular part of their routine. We launched those efforts this fall after spending much of last year working to understand what would need to be in place for teachers to feel comfortable with the practice. That support includes a community of like minded practitioners willing to help each other out, so we pull a group together every six weeks at Milwaukee Succeeds to do just that. That group includes teachers from other schools who are working with Number Talks now, or want to embed the practice in their school next year. Our January meeting with that group will be a planning session to lay out what needs to happen between now and September for schools that want to start in on the effort or expand the number of teachers involved.

Our Zoo Train initiative came together in collaboration with the Coalition for Sustainable Rail, which has been working with the Milwaukee County Zoo to test a bio-fuel on the Zoo’s steam locomotives. They would like to test the fuel on a Zoo scale locomotive of modern design.  We’d like Milwaukee area students to design and build it.

This year we have 65 students from six area high schools working to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives. We’ve paired the teams with near-peer mentors who are engineering majors at area universities, and given the schools a pool of industry experts to tap for help. Over the course of this effort we are also creating opportunities for students to get on-site experiences that can inform their designs. This has included a design thinking workshop hosted by Briggs & Stratton, and a structural design workshop at MSOE.

On December 10th, MSOE hosted the Conceptual Design Review for the water tower challenge. Teams presented their design concepts to panels comprised of Zoo train staff, civil engineers and railroad historians. UWM will play host for the detailed design review in May. The design approach selected there will be the focus of a summer workshop for high school students at MATC where they will produce detailed engineering drawings. We’ll distribute the fabrication work across area schools next fall.

Our goal in all of this it to develop a process where schools can collaborate with university and industry partners, as well as each other, to take on complex work that has value to the community. Having a well defined project with a lofty goal has made it very easy for both schools and partners to say yes. This summer we’ll work with teachers to put together the next challenge– an automated coal handling system for the train. That will follow a parallel sequence with the design phase starting next fall. After that, it’s a caboose, perhaps a passenger car, and then we start in on a new steam locomotive.

Throughout all of this, we have been consistently amazed by the ease with which we can find educators doing great things, willing to share what they know, and try something new. We have also found no shortage of people from area organizations who want to help– they simply need to know where and how. This is a really interesting time. Education is shifting and those who see the change coming are excited by the opportunity to work together to help speed it along.  We are grateful both for the opportunity to be a part of this and for all of the support, feedback, and ideas an amazing group of people have provided us.

— Pete & Joost

 

 

 

Collab Lab 23 Recap

The idea for last night’s Collab Lab came from Chris Willey after a conversation we had last summer.  Chris runs UWM’s Immersive Media Lab, and had recognized that there are a bunch of organizations in Milwaukee doing interesting work in innovation and entrepreneurship at the edges of K-12.  He suggested we use one of this season’s Collab Lab as a way to help educators understand what the organizations are up to, and uncover areas for collaboration.  We started with a list of organizations– UWM’s Immersive Media Lab, MIAD’s Open Lab, Kohl’s Innovation Center, The Commons, 88.9 Labs, Islands of Brilliance, Brinn Labs, and brought a group together to talk through what this might look like.

Collab Lab regulars know that our aim is not to talk at attendees, but to foster conversation among them, so a series of presentations was out from the start.  Since real collaboration requires alignment of more than just short term interests. Real collaboration comes out not just shared goals, but shared values.

This notion gave us both the first step in our process– having participants describe what it is that drives the work they do– and the idea to have Marvin Pope come in as a guest facilitator.  Marvin’s passion is helping others understand and share their purpose, so it was a natural fit. We were delighted that agreed to do so and was willing to work with us to refine the process he’d lead participants through.

Here’s where we landed…

To start, Marvin asked each participant to capture in a sentence or two, their purpose, and the work they do that is guided by that purpose. Participants then shared what they had written, first with whomever they were seated next to, and then within their discussion group.  Here’s some of what participants shared:

  • I’m on a mission to connect math teachers and transform classrooms
  • To facilitate others to become life-long learners
  • To expose students to opportunities and experiences
  • Helping students and teachers rethink learning through new means of instruction and student centered practices

We followed that by asking participants to note what they need to keep moving forward with their work. This too was done first individually, and then shared within the discussion group.  One of the goals here was to illustrate that it is not just educators who need help getting to where they want to be.  Representatives from each of the organizations were part of each discussion group, and they talked through their purpose, work and needs as well. Here we heard things like:

  • A support system that believes in the work I do
  • Teachers willing to collaborate
  • Ideas and perspectives that augment my own

Collab Lab 23In past sessions when we’ve led discussions about how to move past barriers, these focused on the common barriers to common goals of the participants.  Last night we focused on the specific needs of each participant. Participants had been documenting their thoughts on paper form we created for the session.  At this point we everyone pass their forms to the right, to gather ideas from each of the other participants within their discussion group. Once those made it all the way around the table, we let the groups talk through what they had written. The most interesting feedback I got was after the session ended when one attendee, commenting on this process noted “I was expecting a lot of You shoulds.  What came back was a lot of I can help withs.

We wrapped up the process by having attendees jot down what their path forward now looks like. At the end, the form they completed, told the story of the purpose behind their work, the hurdles they face, the help they can get within the community, and where that help will take them. We invited participants to share their story with the group as a whole, by posting their form on the wall, or telling their story on a digital voice recorder to be shared more broadly.

Sorry, no big, overall summary of the discussion to report, just the good news that the process seemed to spark a lot of ideas around how attendees may work together to get where they want to be.

 


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to Marvin and our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Marvin Pope – BU

Tarik Moody – 88.9 Labs
Bill Pariso, Becki Johnson, Pete Prodoehl – Brinn Labs
Nick Grbavac – The Commons
Mike Klug, Tanmay Mhatre, Josh Delzer – Kohl’s Innovation Center
Mark Fairbanks & Amy Mason – Islands of Brilliance
Chris Willey – UWM’s Immersive Media Lab
Ben Dembroski – MIAD’s Open Lab

Zoo Train Challenge – Conceptual Design Review

Teams participating in our challenge to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives presented their concepts at MSOE on Monday.  We have more than 65 students involved, representing ten teams from six high schools.  Given the number of students involved, we ran parallel sessions for the reviews, with each team presenting before a panel that included civil engineers from Excel and MSOE, experts in railroad history from The Center for Railway Photography & Art and the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (our partner in this effort), and the staff which maintain and operate the Zoo’s train.

We asked teams to cover, not only their designs, but how they organized their efforts, alternatives they considered, and where they need additional help.  Students from Elmbrook’s media program stepped up to record all of the presentations for students and teachers to review.

  • Elmbrook Launch Team 3

After a short break for lunch we pulled everyone back together for a recap session with all of the reviewers.  That provided an opportunity for the panelists to summarize what they saw in their session within a few broad themes.  One of the most interesting things for us was to see the different ways schools with larger groups organized their teams– by functional area of the tower, expertise of the team, member, or into smaller teams who would each produce a design concept.  We used the recap session to engage students and teachers in a discussion of how that worked and what it felt like over the course of the semester.

We’re pulling the teachers together next week for a debrief to guide adjustments we’ll want to make as we go into the detailed design phase next semester. That work will begin and end with visits to UWM– first, for a chance to play in UWM’s structures lab, and, on May 2nd, for the detailed design review where the review panelists will select an approach to be fabricated and installed.

We are very grateful to MSOE for hosting the event and working with us to get everything in place.  They provided a beautiful setting with the 4th floor conference area inside the Grohmann Tower.

The Journal Sentinel was also on hand to cover the event. You can find their write up here.

Number Talks Workgroup – December Recap

Number Talks Quick Reference CardThis month we joined the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewery for conversation about math and math education. We were also able to distribute copies of the latest version of our Number Talks quick reference card, which Milwaukee Succeeds had printed for us.  We’ll have the final version laminated, but we’re taking advantage of a mix-up when the printer forgot to laminate these.

The unlaminated versions make it much easier for a teacher to highlight key things they want to pay attention to or write additional prompts. We’ll check back early next year with the teachers these have gone out to to see how they may have modified them and what other feedback they may have before we finalize the design.

If you would like to get a couple of the quick reference cards for yourself or colleagues, let us know. We’d love to hear what you think.

 

I'd like to test drive the Number Talks Quick Reference card.

Have Stuff, Need Stuff?

As we continue to test ideas around up-cycling, we have folks offering to give us material and run across others who can make use of what we have.  To date we’ve gathered and distributed equipment for tear-down activities, parts salvaged from that equipment, and everything from postage stamps (cancelled) to plywood (new).

We don’t want to be the warehouse for everything that might come and go.  Since it gives us a better view into what schools can make use of, we are more than happy to facilitate an exchange.

If you need materials for a project or have something a school might use, let us know.

Number Talks Workgroup – November Recap

Wednesday night’s meeting of our Number Talks workgroup was focused on addressing two issues raised at our last session– producing a quick reference card for Number Talks that teachers new to the practice could use to help guide discussions, and second, helping teachers understand how to select Number Talks given the range in abilities they see within their classroom.

Quick Reference Card

After our October session, we created a draft version of the quick reference card, which coaches from Brown Street Academy and La Causa were able to share with their teachers.  From the feedback received from teachers and some ideas that came up in last night’s discussion, we made a couple of revisions and sent it back out for feedback. If all looks good, we’ll work with Milwaukee Succeeds to print and laminate a stack of these we can share with teachers working with Number Talks.

 

Choosing Number Talks

The First 20 Day plans used by Brown Street and La Causa teachers laid out a set of Number Talks for the start of the semester. This allowed teachers to get comfortable with the routine at the start of the year without having to give a lot of thought as to which problem sets would be most useful for their students.  Since one of the goals of Number Talks is to build understanding where students may have missed something, teachers can’t simply choose problems based on the pacing guide for the curriculum, and instead, need to target number talks around the gaps in understanding that students have.

We began our discussion with the hypothesis that if we identified a set of common misunderstandings, we could match those to one or more math strategies that help illuminate the misunderstanding.  Since our references for Number Talk problem sets are keyed to the strategies that are useful in solving the problems, that would allow teachers to follow a path from misunderstanding to strategy to problem set.

As we talked through the approach, however, it became clear that mapping this out in a way that accounts for both the misunderstanding and the skills teachers are trying to build (getting away from counting on, for example) would result in a complex index.  Further, even if one could produce such an index, if teachers simply followed that by rote, it would not help them build the skills that allow them to recognize where a student is and the best exercises to guide students’ understanding.

At this point, we took a step back. We want teachers to get practice choosing number talks and for them to understand the signs that led to a good choice. We also wanted to ensure that they had the right feedback to develop their skills in charting the thinking of students during Number Talks. Here’s the approach we settled on to test out over the next several weeks.

  1.  The coach will work with grade level teachers to select one or two strategies to focus on for the coming month from Math Strategies guides for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division produced by MPS as part of a GE Foundation grant.
  2. For each strategy identified as a focus for the current month, grade level teachers will pull a sets of Number Talk problems from the  guides produced by Boston Public Schools which groups Number Talk problem sets by the math strategies they are likely to invoke. Three guides cover first, second, and third-fifth grade.  Since the schools we’re working with have kids with a wide range of skills, teachers will focus on problems appropriate for where their students are.
  3. Grade level teachers will select their own problem sets, but as a team, will select at least a couple that will be used by each of their grade level colleagues
  4. Teachers will document student thinking on chart paper rather than smart/white boards so they may easily be shared at grade level meetings with the math coach.  These meetings will provide a venue to walk through how student’s thinking was charted, which number talks worked well given where students are, and how those observations can help guide the selection of the next round of problem sets.

As we stepped through this approach, we also recognized the need to list a few signs for teachers that Number Talks are going well:

  • Students were willing to talk
  • Students were willing to take risks
  • Students tried a new strategy
  • Discourse was respectful
  • The problems were just right— not too easy and not too hard

This resulted in the “Pats on the back” section of the quick reference card.

One other big decision came out of the discussion– we shifted the time and venue for our December 12th meeting to join the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewing at 6:00 pm.  Join us if you can.


If you’d like to become part of our Number Talks workgroup us, let us know:

I'd like to... (required)
ParticipateSupport the effort

 

 

 

Collab Lab 22: Recap & Notes

Collab Lab 22 was focused on how can schools leverage a greenhouse/aquaponics facility to provide a rich set of authentic learning experiences for students.  We structured the session as small group discussions focused on goals, the opportunities presented when these facilities are available to students, and what needs to be in place for educators to move forward.

Here’s what we came up with:

Goals

  • Develop authentic learning experiences
    • learn how to think systematically
  • Create a micro-economy
  • Tie into multiple areas within STEAM
  • Create tangible applications to drive student engagement
  • Pull in a new audience (of students)
  • Create a focus/spur for community development
  • Show students and colleagues what is possible
  • Create memorable, hands-on experiences for students
  • Aid local pantry
  • Develop a common language
  • Develop systems awareness
    • Circle of life– acquire food; manage waste; your role
  • Develop productive, self sustaining responsible adults– personal and work ethics
  • Collaborate for learning and greater benefit to community
  • Sustainable educational program
  • Included in educational curriculum standards
  • Equitable access to learning
  • Build literacy for the value of science

Key Takeaway:  The goal(s) for the facility should drive design

 

Opportunities

  • Cash crops
  • Allow students can see what one plant can provide
  • Build transferable skills
    • scientific illustration
    • ecosystems
    • problem solving
    • environmental law/policy
    • public speaking
    • making decisions
  • Tap into kids’ passions
  • Experiential learning — e.g. things break
  • Therapeutic effects/mindfulness
  • Chance for students to see small successes
  • Chance for students to collaborate with peers they would not otherwise interact with
  • Learn culinary skills/safe food handling
  • Build a connection to food/compassion for food systems
  • See something new
  • Experiment with sensors and controls
    • Live monitoring of system: pH, water usage, temperature
    • Build numeracy skills
  • Ag marketing apprenticeship
  • Healthy eating
  • Cooking with kids
  • Community engagement
  • Add meaning to field trips
    • Water/ponds in Milwaukee
  • Tie in to solar energy
  • Public policy implications
  • Develop aquaponics curriculum to build understanding of
    • systems thing
    • food production
    • scientific literacy
  • Inventory of best practices to share and collaborate
  • Accessible exposure to systems– e.g. turn the facility into a demonstration of a closed loop system
  • Composting to teach waste management
  • Start in elementary level to create mindset and culture

 

What is needed to move forward

  • Cultural norms
  • Buy-in from risk management, facilities & maintenance at the district level.
  • A teacher champion (and a backup)
  • A student champion
  • To be around people who know how to do this
  • Broad understanding of the value to students
  • A network of schools working with greenhouses/aquaponics
  • Revenue to cover costs/justify program (reduced need for field trips)
  • Build the case for academic ROI
  • Knowing how to measure behavioral outcomes
  • Regulatory knowledge– how to navigate contracts
  • Celebrate success
  • Space
  • To just start — learn from imperfections
  • Fundraising to expand/upgrade
  • Pioneers sharing their learning
  • Partners with knowledge, experience, funding
  • Colleagues who are motivated to take initiative
  • Tell the story– market the exciting things that are happening to the wider community
  • Create relationships to introduce accountability

 


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Charles Uihlein – Teens Grow Greens
Joe Jenna – Waukesha West High School
Sam Rikkers – Tiny Earth
Matt Ray – Fernwood Montessori (MPS)