Collab Lab 27: Recap & Notes

See Math Everywhere

We had a record crowd for Collab Lab 27, where we explored ways to enable kids and parents find creative and playful ways to engage in math throughout Milwaukee. The focus for the session started with an idea Mary Langmyer raised coming out of our December Collab Lab– what would it look like if we could see math everywhere in Milwaukee? We worked with Mary to put together a vision statement, and started talking to folks we wanted to pull in to help figure this out.

Mary introduced the evening’s topic and several of her sources of inspiration. We then had attendees form groups that each contained a mix of educators and community partners. Their first task was a brainstorming activity to capture ideas what seeing math everywhere might look like.

Each group was then asked to pick an idea to develop. We had them flesh out details, get some feedback from other attendees, and then outline what it would take to move the idea forward. Here’s what the groups came up with.

Estimation on Location

A scavenger hunt to estimate distances, times, quantities, percents age, etc. of neighborhood landmarks.

  • Where: School, library, neighborhood, grocery store, parks, pools
  • Who: Teacher, librarian, community organization, leader, parents, students, pedestrians
  • When: How about now? How many windows are in this building?
  • Partners: Libraries, schools, neighborhood associations, businesses, MCTS
  • Resources: Basics, like paper, volunteers, data, tracking, use a Google form or app if you want to get fancy.
  • Testing it out: School, library, south shore park

Fort MKE

Engage neighborhoods in construction of forts from re-cycled material

  • What: Everyone likes a fort; recycled/refurbished material; visual appeal of design; potential metrics– capacity, dimensions, quantity of material used, location coordinates
  • Why: Build community locally and across the city; teach math and engineering design, and communication skills
  • Where: Parks or schools– activate anywhere (access/equity)
  • Who: Kids in Milwaukee; 3 levels, for elementary, middle, and high school students. High school students might take on as a service learning project for a homeless shelter
  • When: Summer
  • Prize: Top design becomes an interactive exhibit at Discovery World (with membership for participating kids and families?)
  • Partners: MIAD, Rockwell, Northwestern Mutual, MSOE, Discovery World, Milwaukee County Parks, neighborhood associations
  • Resources: Recycled building materials, marketing materials
  • Funding: Sponsorship from partners
  • Test: Pilot in fall of 2019 with 2 schools

Family Road Trip – Go With Math

Math related activities for families planning a road trip

  • What: Budgeting of time and money – miles, maps, calculations
    • pre planning/investigating multiple trips; ranking
    • spreadsheet tracking
    • estimation and comparison with actual outcome
    • create simulation/game/scenarios of chance
    • create an app for others
    • environmental impact/cost
  • Why: Apply math, critical thinking real life, dream, plus plan and budgeting for the unexpected
  • Where: Could be anywhere!
  • Who: Anyone, any age– a family activity
  • When: Summer project with family or as project within school
  • Partners: travel agent, gas stations, visit MKE, tourist attractions, restaurants, transit, banks
  • Resources: Online travel planning ; spreadsheet app/program
  • Funding: Donors choose/go fund me; online research sites for sustainability

Fitness App Hackathon

A STEM challenge for Milwaukee area students to develop a fitness app

  • What: Hackathon to develop an app to track steps, heart rate, milage, weight goals; Once launched, users can hit fitness goals to unlock discounts at local establishments
  • Who: Collaboration with MSOE and YMCA
  • Where: Host the hackathon at MSOE
  • Partners: MSOE, YMCA, MPS, Learn Deep, area accelerators; MKE retailers and vendors
  • Resources: CYSI; local incubators; Vroom; MSOE students/faculty; YES! (Young Enterprising Society)

What does it take to dye the Milwaukee river?

What’s the math around dying the Milwaukee river green?

  • What: On the (now past) occasion of dying the Milwaukee river green, have students estimate how much dye is actually required.
  • Why: Apply concepts of volume, concentration, and flow rate to a real-life problem
  • Where: Competition at the Fiserv Forum where teams present their calculations. Winning team gets to participate in the ceremony to dye the river.
  • Who: MPS middle and high school students
  • When: NBA Playoffs for 2020?
  • Partners: Bucks, City of Milwaukee, DNR, Brewers, DNC, local universities
  • Resources: River measurement estimates (with which to calculate volume; data on dye concentration levels/coverage
  • Funding: Sponsors to fund Fiserv event; food & beverage donations
  • Test: Get the data from 2019 event; model the problem in a classroom to calculate volume and use food coloring to estimate concentration levels

Milwaukee’s Movable Bridges

Math explorations while waiting for a bridge to lower

  • Where: Milwaukee River bridges along Plankinton Avenue and Water Street
  • What: Younger kids – count the number of boats going past; older kids — geometry of bridges (height, angle when raised, shape), velocity, duration of events — boats passing, bridge raising/lowering; how can this process be made more efficient for everyone impacted?
  • When: Anytime, or while waiting for a bridge
  • Why: We have a captive audience that needs to do something during the wait time.
  • Who: Drivers, walkers, bikers, public transit riders, boaters
  • When: Spring/Summer (to supplement summer learning)
  • Partners: Milwaukee Public Works, Vroom, Google field trips
  • Resources: Signage by bridges
  • Funding: City, summer/after school programs
  • Test: social media challenge; summer to do list from school

Math-a-thon

Math races for a cause

  • What: Create a math race for your favorite cause where participants look at
    • estimation
    • measurement
    • conversions
    • functions
    • substitution
    • geometry – angles, slopes
    • speed/velocity
    • rate of change
    • averages
    • variables
  • Why: See math everywhere– Students determine purpose and type of race (bike, walk, marathon)
  • Where: Milwaukee area with evidence of math and interest (animals, vets, immigration, etc.)
  • Who: 6th-12th grades
  • When: Winter/spring of 2020
  • Partners: City (route feedback, viability); Existing races/walks; fundraisers, organizers, MPS
  • Resources: Classrooms/teachers
  • Funding: Contest, racing funding
  • Test: Plan southside mural tour with 3rd-5th graders for winter of 2019. Show results to potential partner organizations to sponsor an event during the summer of 2020

Smoothies for Mathies

Play with ratios by playing with food

  • What: Smoothie cards that are placed next to ingredients within grocery stores with activities focused on cost, nutrition, and quantities.
    • Substitutions, pie charts, percentages
    • Include prompts for families — what is the most cost effective, nutritious, etc.
  • Why: Access– we all eat, practical knowledge, adaptable recipe, nutrition, creativity, trying new foods/combinations
  • Where: Grocery stores, fruit stands, farmers’ markets, gas stations, anywhere food is sold
  • Who: Shoppers, stores– could be categorized by goal, e.g. more fiber, ethnic food, weight loss, body building
  • When: anytime/seasonal recipes
  • Partners: Aldi, Sendiks, Outpost, Pic N Save, other local stores, Fondy food center, Riverwest Community Food Center
  • Resources: Nutritionist, cook book authors, chefs, graphic designers, MIAD, printers, distribution/display maintenance
  • Funding: grants, advertising/promotion, brands pay for printing, food entrepreneurs for product placement; UW extension, WIC community outreach.
  • Test: individual store, easy to duplicate if successful; community stores

If you want to bake a pizza you must first invent the universe

An after school program to grow and prepare food

  • When: After school
  • Where: Neighborhood center
  • Why: People eat every day. If you are seeing math in something you do everyday, you’re learning math (in addition to nutrition and health)
  • Who: Students
    • Elementary School – garden
    • Middle School – Grocery store
    • High School – Test kitchen
  • How: Chez Panisse in Berkeley, grants, neighborhood center, partner
  • Partners: Grocery store, farm, restaurant, CSA school PTO, neighborhood center, Discovery World,

Build a Business

Student run business as exposure for applied math

  • What: Understanding economics of building a business; competition w/startup funding and showcase of ideas.
  • Why: Teach students fundamental math skills used in a business
    • pricing
    • costs
    • strategies
    • marketing, etc.
  • Where: After school program
  • Who: Middle and high school students
  • When: During school (equity); after school
  • Partners: Banks, JA, area entrepreneurs, foundations, sporting teams
  • Barriers: Time, funding for startups, curriculum, scalability
  • Resources: Leighton (MPS Rec), interested teachers/school districts, Universities, business schools, B-school students
  • Testing: 1-2 MPS After School summer programs/CLC site

Thanks!

Thanks again to Mary Langmyer for her enthusiasm and work to pull the session together, and The Commons for providing the space for this month’s Collab Lab. Thanks also to Monique Liston from Ubuntu Research who brought her grad students to both lend a hand and participate in the session.

For those of you that want to connect with or learn more about some of the math folks and resources from the Collab Lab:

Mary Langmyer is on Twitter @mlangmyer
Chris Nho with Chicago Public Schools and Public Math is on Twitter @nhoskee
Synovia Moss at Medical College of Wisconsin coordinates Vroom for our area
Gabriella Pinter at UWM runs math circles for teachers and students

Marquette Engineering Visualization Lab Visit

Teams from Menomonee Falls High School and Elmbrook’s Launch program were able to meet us at Marquette’s Visualization Lab (MARVL) to walk through their models for a new water tower at the Zoo train depot. Chris Larke, the Visual Technology Specialist for the College of Engineering set up the demonstration to include exploded views of the models with supporting documentation arrayed in the background.

To explore the models, and conduct a mini-review, we donned 3D glasses to view stereoscopic images projected on four walls within what staff call “The Cave”.

After a review of both models and a chance for students to drive the presentation, Mark Federle, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, was kind enough to give us a tour of the Olin Engineering building. Thanks Mark and Chris for all that went in to putting this together!

Collab Lab 26 Recap & Notes

Storytelling

Collab Lab 26 focused on storytelling and how we can use those practices to empower student voices and drive engagement.

We started the discussion with the question “What hopes do you have when students are given a chance to tell stories that matter to them?”:

  • Students will be able to share stories with an authentic audience
  • Students will develop a sense of identity and worth
  • Students will have the chance to understand a commonality of experience
  • Students are able to advocate for their ideas
  • Students capture history making connections
  • The process models collaboration, community, and critical thinking
  • Students understand the power of their voice, and empathy for others
  • Students share and support authentic representation, identity, and learning
  • Empathy – students see the ethical and therapeutic potential of seeing others as human
  • Students gain a sense of freedom, choice, ownership, authenticity, bravery, and dignity from the stories they share

Authentic storytelling comes with risks, so we also asked about the fears participants had when students tell stories that are meaningful to them:

  • We are not prepared to hear a story in a supportive way
  • A lack of efficacy or ability to change lives
  • If we don’t teach the art and science of storytelling, students will stop telling them– they need an audience
  • No acceptance of failure (shame, exposure, sharing)
  • Sensation of negative, leads to negative – e.g. if one student tells a story of harmful behavior does that lead others to emulate that behavior?
  • It is difficult to combat the toxicity of Celebrity as Hero.
  • Vulnerability of students (low initial stakes with incremental risk)
  • Exposure of trauma without an ability to care for it

From there we moved on to ask “What questions can help students identify stories worth telling?” Here, the need to as these questions in an iterative, repetitive way was called out as a necessary step in getting students to think deeply about their responses.  The goal for participants here is to help students find a story they can tell from the heart.

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you from?
  • Why?
  • For what and for whom?
  • How can this story touch one person?
  • How do you tell different stories to different people?
  • What’s your reason – your personal mission statement?
  • What is/are your:
    • weirdness
    • mutation
    • zip code
    • fears
    • pains
    • joys
    • passions

Our final question asked participants what they need to help students tell these stories:

  • To create a culture and community that supports students’ voices, and provides safety and comfort as they tell their stories
  • To give students options about how to tell their stories
  • To provide students a space that makes them feel awesome
  • Time, flexibility, community, connections
  • Access to storytelling expertise
  • Time for students to play
  • A culture of storytelling that recognizes the need for authentic listening, and receiving
  • The opportunity to use non-linguistic media
  • Imagination

Give the focus on storytelling, one of our discussion groups captured what this might look like as a story:

At MLK Elementary, a 6th grader who was sometimes seen as a troublemaker got up in a front of a room and told the story of how she realized she was a naturally gifted pool player.  This resulted in lots of positive attention for her! The workshops and prep time she used paid off!


Resources

Milwaukee Film

Youth Education (for young people): https://mkefilm.org/for-educators/youth-education

Educator Services: https://mkefilm.org/for-educators/educator-services

UWM

Milwaukee Visionaries Project (MVP) UWM-sponsored after-school animation program serving middle and high school students from throughout the city of Milwaukee. Our programming for middle and high school students aligns with the MPS school year and we enroll students on a rolling basis throughout the year. MVP does not currently offer a summer session, but UWM’s greater Art Ed networking organization (ArtsECO) runs Pre-College Art and Design classes for high school students during our off-season.

Information for Pre-College programming available at UWM can be found here: https://uwm.edu/arts/pre-college/

ArtsECO Based within UWM’s Peck School of the Arts, our diverse programming offerings develop teachers as change-makers. ArtsECO is backed by a strong and sustainable community of arts organizations, non-profits, and K12 school partnerships. We offer monthly Meet-Up events available to the public as well!

Geoconvos

Using place and identity as framework for storytelling as an https://geoconvos.org/

 

Have something to add that we didn’t catch here?  Let us know.


Thanks!

Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space for this month’s Collab Lab.  Thanks also to our featured participants:

Karen Ambrosh — Teacher, Audubon Technology and Communication High School
Emily Berens — Program Coordinator, UWM’s ArtsECO
Adam Carr
Wendy Harrop — STEM/Library Integrator, Summit Elementary School
Dominic Inouye — Founder and Director, ZIP MKE & Jane’s Walk
Megan McGee — Co-founder and Executive Director, Ex Fabula
Cara Ogburn — Programming & Education Director, Milwaukee Film

Collab Lab 25 Recap

Water: How can we engage students in authentic learning experiences related to water and water technologies?

Beyond the facts that Milwaukee sits next to a whole lot of water and spans several watersheds, it is home to more than 200 water technology companies. This creates an opportunity not just to explore physical connections to water and the environment, but to tap into expertise around how water is used and managed.  At our February Collab Lab, we pulled together individuals from area organizations engaged water technology and issues from a variety of perspectives. We then sat them down with educators to flesh out some ideas and make the connections that can help bring those ideas to life.

 

Amber DuChateau was kind enough to step in as a guest facilitator.  She guided our discussion groups through a process that began with participants sharing what drives their work and what excites them now about what they’re working on.  From our perspective, the really interesting work in schools is driven by teachers passions.  This method of introduction provides a chance for them to connect with others who share their enthusiasm.

 

Our search for opportunities began with a brainstorming process within each discussion group.  We asked each table to generate ideas for potential projects using one or more of these strategies:

  • Mix and match — What would it look like to combine exciting work from 2 or 3 members of your table?
  • Shift context — What does it look like to take exciting work and put it in a different location, class (art music, language arts, history, business), age group?
  • Empower students — what does it look like when students drive the questions, act as mentors to younger students, lead the project
  • Distribute the work — what changes if you had 10 classes chipping in, what does it look like if you have 100?
  • Extend the scope — what changes if you can rely on the skills of students/teachers in other classes?

That process gave us a list of ideas that included:

  • What constitutes “healthy water”
  • How does water flow through the curriculum
    • gardens
    • aquaponics (our focus for Collab Lab 22)
    • connecting questions (inquiry) to answers (outcomes)
  • How is water made?
  • Connect Sweet Water’s Adopt a Storm Drain project to schools
  • First Lego League + Computational Thinking + Water problems
  • Water Poetry (with presentation of work)
  • Test presentations of water related work before visitors to Discovery World
  • Tell the story of a drop of water
  • Tell the story of a drop of water through water bracelets (each token on a bracelet tells part of the story)
  • Enlist students in UWM’s School of Freshwater Science as mentors to MPS Science teachers working with Project GUTS
  • Tell the story of the Habitat Hotels constructed for the Harbor District by Bradley Tech students
  • Extend STEMhero‘s curriculum to connect students to look at water usage of businesses near schools

With those ideas in hand, each group moved on to select one idea and create a vision for what that might look like.  Here’s where they landed:

Project Idea 1: Adopt a Storm Drain +

Goal

Students adopt one or more storm drains near their school.  Students understand the function of storm drains, how pollution can enter the system, and be swept into area streams and Lake Michigan.  Inspired by this understanding, they work to keep their storm drain(s) free from garbage that may be swept into the drain and out into area waterways.

Key Issues

  • Scalability– how can this effort spread
  • What education levels to target?

Potential Partners

  • Sweet Water
  • Green Schools Consortium

Project Idea 2: If I Were a Drop of Water

Goal

Engage student physically, mentally, and emotionally to understand the flow of a drop of water from where it lands in Milwaukee and its journey to Lake Michigan.  Use a multidisciplinary approach to help students build these stories, which are then presented to an audience from the wider community.

Where/Who/When

Across the watersheds which cover Milwaukee in grades 6-12.  Pilot the effort in 7th or 8th grade. Prep for the effort in the fall, get students outside in the spring to follow the path of water from their chosen source to the lake.

What’s Needed to Move Forward

  • Identify locations to use as starting point for water journey
    • Tap local expertise to do so (building connections between schools and partners)
  • Do a test run of the water journey with teachers
  • Map the work envisioned back to curriculum standards

How to get Started

  • Reach out to science curriculum specialists to help identify schools who might be willing to pilot
  • Run the idea past local experts to identify source locations that would allow students to follow interesting journeys

Project Idea 3: What Constitutes Healthy Water?

Goals

  • Incorporate actual water issues for Milwaukee– lead, lake levels, etc.
  • Include water quality into multidisciplinary curriculum

How to get Started

  • Identify a client (big or small) for the work
    • Miller
    • Summerfest
    • MMSD
    • Colectivo
  • Craft a project to engage students in work to explore/address the client’s concerns around water.

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

Brenda Coley – Co-Executive Director, Milwaukee Water Commons
Jake Fincher – Stormwater Program Manager, Sweet Water
Tony Giron – Community Engagement Manager, Harbor District Milwaukee
Justin Hegarty, P.E., LEED A.P., Executive Director, Reflo
Kelly Ibarra – Teacher Success Lead, STEMhero
Cate Rahmlow – Director of Sector Strategy Development, WEDC
Rochelle Sandrin – Science Curriculum Specialist, Milwaukee Public Schools
Liz Sutton, Outreach Manager, UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences

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.