While MATC students were doing fieldwork to create a survey of the coal handling area for our Zoo Train Challenge, they took the time to shoot some 3D photos. Those images are now available on Google Maps, and give a good look at the site our Zoo Train students are focused on.
To view other images in the series, pull up the Zoo on Google Maps, and click the icon of the little person in the lower right corner of your browser
Over the past two days, We Energies hosted four tours of their coal handling facility in Oak Creek for students in our Zoo Train Challenge. A team of five from We Energies walked students through the procedures they follow to safely store and move coal from when it arrives by train to when it is used in the power plant. On their tour of the facility, students were able to see the equipment and systems in use.
What students learned about how to manage coal on a very large scale, they will now bring to bear as they think through how to revise the coal handling process at the Zoo.
Our 4th season of Collab Labs kicked off on October 10th with a focus on building skilled trades talent. We began the discussion by building an inventory of the skills we’d like to see students develop. These fell into two broad categories:
Read blueprints & technical drawings
Fine motor skills/hand-eye coordination
Math and measurement
Budgeting/Understanding job costs
General understanding of construction trades
Ability to take constructive criticism
Ability to take direction
Self discipline/integrity/follow through/show up ready to work
Collaboration/Interpersonal skills within a team
Ability to listen
Willingness to learn/ask thoughtful question
From there we asked each discussion group to talk through experiences that do or could provide opportunities to build those skills. Here’s what they came up with:
Build2Learn Camp $500 stipend for summer workshop
European model – apprentices
Engage employers – job shadow
Inspire/Awe – Makerspace Home Depot creative space
Intentionally incorporate soft skills into lessons
Provide high interest projects
Bring industry speakers into the classroom
Real world applications with purpose – e.g. 3D prosthetics
Teamwork: moving a project to completion
Presenting/exhibiting craft work
Building confidence with no or low risk simulations.
Leverage connections and take them to scale
Address skills gaps with “it takes a village” perspective
Get professionals into classrooms
They can learn from students
Talk with students, not down to them
Our final step was to have each group take those ideas, talk through what a program might look like, and share that out with the entire group. Here’s where they landed:
Project Start to finish real world application
Build a house
Bring in industry
Build soft skills
Build technical skills
Goal is to have job ready workers, provide apprenticeships, job opportunities.
Identify industry partner/employer
Ask “What do you need from us?”
Identify what workforce needs exist
Identify training/skills needed
Company sponsored projects
Materials or time
Interdisciplinary/project based learning
Working with other schools/districts
Feedback models – Hard on content/soft on person
Skype team meetings
Drone/webcams of projects progressing
Build excitement about upcoming technologies
Early Hands-on Exposure
Out of comfort zone
Students: Littles – early exposure
Education Workplace: Welcoming anti-racist, data-driven, performance based
What’s needed to move forward: Looking past personal bias, equal access to opportunities, a cultural shift
Industry-owned Youth Apprenticeships
IDing under-served population
Mapped to skilled trades values and skills
Bringing the industry straight to the families
Thanks to CG Schmidt for sponsoring our food and beverages for the evening, The Commons for providing the space, and to our featured participants for sharing their expertise and ideas,
Peter Graven – Earth Science/ Life Science/ Robotics, Deer Creek Intermediate School (St Francis)
This year 140 students from 11 area schools will participate in our Zoo Train Challenge– redesign the coal handling process used for the Zoo’s steam locomotives. At yesterday’s kick-off event, students had a chance to visit the site, see what it’s like to lift a bushel bucket of coal, and meet their peers from other schools.
Before we went into a Q & A session, we sat students at tables where they got to know peers from other schools and worked together to identify the questions they wanted to see answered at the session. That process was led by Dr. David Howell from MSOE, who brought along 13 MSOE student volunteers to help facilitate the work at each table.
While students went through that work, teachers and industry advisers had a chance to meet and talk through how they will run the project in their classrooms. Two New Berlin students from last year’s challenge joined us for the event– one, who went to the school board for permission to retake the engineering class so she could participate this year, and a second who is now at MSOE, and came along to help.
Students from seven area high schools met a UWM yesterday for a session on occupational ergonomics lead by Madiha Saeed Ahmed from UWM’s College of Engineering. The students are part of this year’s Zoo Train Engineering Challenge, will is focused on improving the coal handling process for the Zoo’s steam locomotives.
The current process is to manually sift coal into buckets which can weigh 90 pounds when full. These are carried down an uneven walkway along the tracks where they are staged until needed. When the train staff need to re-load coal for the train, the buckets are dumped into the train’s tender, through an opening that is close to four feet off the ground. Needless to say, plenty of issues to look at.
MATC started their fieldwork to create a survey and site plan of the coal handling area at the Milwaukee County Zoo. The survey work will give students participating in our Zoo Train Challenge an accurate site plan for the area as they look to redesign the coal handling process. The survey effort is led by instructor David Langhoff, who was looking for an opportunity to get his students engaged in a real world project. MATC students working to help middle and high school students help the Zoo. #Collaboration
This past spring, through a grant from Northwestern Mutual, we completed a project that identified factors that drive the willingness of teachers and mentors to participate in initiatives aimed at developing computational thinking skills. Here’s a summary of that effort and what we found.
Solid computational thinking skills are useful across domains and provide a key foundation for the development of tech talent. Developing these skills within computer science classes is constrained by several factors:
Computer science classes are not widely available, particularly in schools that serve diverse populations.
Educators certified to teach computer science are in short supply.
There are limited incentives for teachers to pursue certification and few educators do.
Computer science classes are largely taught at the high school level. If we want to develop strong computational thinking skills among students, they need exposure to and practice with them throughout their elementary and secondary school years.
A strict focus on computer science as the domain where these skills are developed limits the points of engagement for both students and teachers. As a result, it weeds out both students and teachers whose primary interests (at present) lay outside of computer science.
Widespread development of computational thinking (CT) skills will require a different approach— one that can leverage the interests and passions of both students and teachers in domains outside of computer science.
Computational Thinking Interviews
Through a grant from Northwestern Mutual, we interviewed a total of 11 teachers involved with either MPS’s efforts to introduce Project GUTS, SHARP Literacy’s Design Through Code (DTC) program, or TEALS. Recognizing that computational thinking is a perspective new to most teachers and they would benefit from outside support, we also conducted interviews with 10 mentors from the FIRST Robotics and TEALS programs. Each of these programs provides an opportunity for students to develop computational thinking skills. Apart from TEALS, all are in domains and classes outside of computer science.
We use the lens of Jobs to Be Done to understand how teachers and industry mentors make decisions about where and how to invest their time and energy. Adoption of a useful and effective practice will move no faster than the practice solves a real problem for teachers in the context within which teachers operate. Failure to understand the context within which a teacher might employ a practice and how this practice fits given their other priorities will, at best, slow adoption. At worst, it will lead to active resistance. For mentors, if the chance to guide students in work that can build computational thinking skills does not align with their own goals, pressures, and schedule, they won’t do it.
Findings & Recommendations
“I felt it was my responsibility as aneducator to at least learn and bring coding to them”
For teachers, the primary factors which led them to participate in one of the three programs noted above are:
Support from their school or district administration
A desire to help their students develop coding skills
For Project GUTS teachers, a recognition that the tools and curriculum provided a much richer way for their students to explore topics that involve dynamic systems
A lower cost to deliver the experience for students
Curriculum that fits within their schedule
Factors holding them back from doing more with the programs are a lack of experience with coding, modeling dynamic systems (Project GUTs), or design thinking (DTC).
“I want to help kids do cool, hard things.”
The mentors we interviewed are motivated by a desire to help students build skills–not just in coding, but an ability to work with a team– and to see them succeed in a challenging project. Their willingness to participate is tempered by the obligations they feel towards their colleagues at work– they want to know that the time they spend as volunteers at worst does not impact their team, and at best, makes them a better team member.
Given what we heard over the course of these interviews, we see a number of opportunities for interventions which could support teachers who want to expose their students to computational thinking in general and speed the adoption of Project GUTS in particular.
Engage students in coding as a way to explore or solve problems
“…the interactions of students, the sharing of ideas, are almost more adult.”
Project GUTS provides an opportunity to expose students to coding in ways that allow them to explore ideas and problems in science. The tools provide a way for students to test ideas and lets their curiosity around the topic or problem at hand drive their desire to master the coding required to do so. This approach offers both teachers and students many more possible points of engagement than would a program focused on simply learning how to code.
Leverage teachers’ enthusiasm for Project GUTS
We were surprised by the enthusiasm teachers showed for Project GUTS. Teachers involved with the program recognize its value, can see opportunities where it can be used effectively, and are excited enough by the possibilities that they look to get colleagues involved.
Support teachers who want to do more with Project GUTS
The teachers we spoke with all had specific ideas for the topics they’d like to explore with Project GUTS. Several mentioned a desire to collaborate with colleagues at their own school or to connect with colleagues at other schools working on the same topics. Beyond having additional training or ad hoc support from district specialists, the current set of Project GUTS teachers could benefit from:
a program to develop and test models and integrate into curriculum;
a network of local practitioners with regular opportunities to meet in person;
training opportunities for their
Create a mentor pool for Project GUTS teachers
Teachers were not completely confident in their ability to make full use of the tools without additional support. An outside mentor who can bring domain expertise around the systems to be modeled and some sense of how best to do so would provide welcome help.
The time commitment here need not be anywhere near as intensive as that required by TEALS. Having some availability to exchange ideas with a teacher and visit a class a few times per semester when students are working through models would be a valued addition to the support currently provided by colleagues and curriculum specialists within MPS.
Teachers value on-going relationships with mentors and want the same for their students. Having a mentor assigned to a teacher for the duration of a school year is preferable to a pool of volunteers where any one of whom might drop in on an ad-hoc basis. This partnership would be further enhanced if teachers have a chance to work with mentors who interests are strongly aligned with their own.
Demonstrate that the employer values mentors’ work with students
Mentors want to know that the time they spend with students is valued by their employer and that it does not distract from the work their team needs to complete. While mentors recognized that work with K-12 students can provide an opportunity to develop skills they can leverage in the workplace, few of those we spoke with indicated this was recognized by their employer.
Overt signals from the employer that mentorship work is valued as a professional development opportunity by the firm will leave mentors more willing to participate. As examples, a firm might:
Provide employer sponsored opportunities for mentors to learn how to effectively engage with students– this would both demonstrate an employer’s commitment to the effort and help mentors be more effective in the classroom
Incorporate meaningful student mentorship as a recognized track in building leadership and communication skills for employees
Provide opportunities for mentors’ students/teachers to share their work with co-workers. This could come through on-site presentations, newsletter articles, or by encouraging attendance at off-site presentations.
Facilitate deep connections between mentors and the classroom
The desire of teachers for support they can count on, and that of mentors to see growth are more easily satisfied when mentors have an ongoing role with the class or classes they support. Mentors who have built good relationships with the students they work with are an asset to the teacher and allow the teacher to play a higher value role within the classroom.
Want to know explore our findings in greater detail? Our full report detailed report is available here. If you’re interested in leveraging what we’ve found, or helping Milwaukee move forward with any of our recommendations, let us know.
Family/date night math came to the NEWaukee Night Market last night. Math educators Mary Langmyer and David Temple created opportunities for attendees to solve number puzzles, play with shapes, build nets with Magnatiles, use “shape finders” and participate in our first “street survey”. It was a chance to engage with math (and mathematicians) in playful and creative ways as well as chance to meet others who stopped by for positive math experiences! All in all, a night of great (and humorous) conversations and learning for everyone!
Following on from discussions with COA staff earlier in the summer, Collab-Labist Mary Langmyer set up a number of math activities for COA’s family picnic. Children had fun with the chance to play number games, count collections, create number sentences, build with blocks, make patterns and design attribute trains…and play with bubbles! It was a great day to sit down and relax with new friends… while using one’s imagination to engage with math!