How can we help?

Looking for ways to keep your students engaged from a distance?  We’re happy to help. 

Connect to outside expertise:  We can tap our network to connect you/your students to outside expertise to provide input and guidance on student projects.

Project ideas: Over the past four years, our Collab Lab participants have generated a number of project ideas.  While there isn’t a lot of time to ramp up a new project before the end of the school year, we can help you craft experiments or exercises for students that can give you a better sense of what you might want to do on a larger scale next year.

Materials: Over the course of our experiments in up-cycling, we’ve assembled a small inventory of materials students might use to develop physical prototypes. If we don’t have what you need, we can help find it and pull together kits for you to get to your students.

If you’d like help with any of these, or would like to tap us for something else, just let us know what you need here.

Learn Deep Lunch

On Wednesday we kicked off our Learn Deep Lunch series with a discussion about the challenges educators face with coronavirus driven distance learning.  Participants shared their experiences and ideas on a Zoom session and captured their thoughts on a shared Google Jam Board.

The common struggles were keeping kids both connected and engaged. It’s not enough for students to simply to have access to technology.  If they have not used the tools deployed for distance learning, have adults or siblings at home that can help troubleshoot, or simply compete for time on the device with another sibling, they are much less likely to participate.  For educators that had not used distance learning tools in the past, or where district or building standards or expectations about how distance learning ought to run, the need to figure all this out creates an additional burden.

In spite of these challenges, participants had developed a number of strategies to adjust to the current situation. A number of educators recognized that their students are looking for ways to feel connected to their classmates, and had found lightweight ways to do so– from Instagram challenges to virtual lunch tables. The recognition that students need intrinsic motivation to stay engaged has a number of educators using the last weeks of the school year to help students identify and pursue passion projects.

Learn Deep Lunches run from 11:45 to 12:30 on Wednesdays. Our next session is April 29th.  Details and registration info are here.

Adjusting to Coronavirus

From the beginning, our approach has been to give educators and folks from the broader community the chance to come together to explore and move forward ideas about how to engage students in meaningful collaborative work that builds connections across Milwaukee’s many silos.  We also recognized that the best way to build the relationships and  trust that allows effective collaboration is for people to have the chance to meet and work together in person.

Unfortunately, this in-person, network focused approach to the spread of ideas is just what we don’t want in this time of cornoavirus. We’re making a number of adjustments to keep things moving forward while keeping our network and the students they work with safe.

Collab Labs

Collab Lab 34: Tapping industry expertise will be held as a Twitter chat at #CollabLabChat on Thursday April 9th from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

Collab Lab 35: Re/connect has been postponed to Thursday August 13th

Zoo Train Challenge

Review sessions at the UWM and Marquette’s 3D visualization labs, as well as the the session scheduled with Operating Engineers Local 420 have been cancelled.

The final design review scheduled for April 28th at MSOE has also been cancelled. We will work with the Milwaukee County Zoo and participating schools to explore alternatives for students to share their designs to rework the coal handling process for the Zoo’s steam locomotives.

Fabrication of a new water tower for the Zoo’s steam locomotives based on the designs from last year’s challenge has been postponed until fall.


The STEM Studio sessions with MPS teachers working to design real world projects that engage students in computational thinking are on hold until teachers return to work.

Making use of this time

We’re exploring opportunities to help keep things moving for you. Let us know what challenges you see ahead and let’s see if we can’t find some new opportunities out of the present chaos, in our one question survey here.

Developing Engineering Talent

In our work with schools over the past 4 years we’ve noted some key gaps in experiences and skills that limit what students are able to accomplish on K-12 engineering projects. We’ve also noticed that pulling in the resources that can support students as they take on more complex work is much easier when there’s a chance to see students do great things.

There are systems in place that allow kids coming out of high school to perform at a very high level in music or sports.

What if we did the same for engineering?

At Learn Deep we see the potential for a great K-12 farm system to develop diverse engineering talent in Milwaukee and want to get that moving as a collaborative effort. On Tuesday, we took the first step by convening a working session that included K-12 educators, engineering faculty, industry mentors, and organizations with STEM/engineering programming for K-12 students. As a group we used that session to identify the gaps in skills and experiences that slow their development of talents useful in engineering. 

photo of Learn Deep workshop attendees discussing engineering talent development approaches
educators, engineers and academics discuss gaps in developing great engineering talent.

What makes for an effective problem solver? 

We put together the diagram here a few years ago as we pondered this question.  Effective problem solvers draw on each of these 4 areas:

What does this problem remind me of?

  • How I felt
  • How people reacted
  • What worked
  • What didn’t work
  • etc…

What knowledge can I bring?

  • Math
  • Technology
  • Design
  • Psychology
  • History
  • Tools are appropriate for a problem like this,
  • etc…

Who do I know that can:

  • Support me
  • Provide guidance/advice
  • Connect me to others
  • Act as a mentor
  • etc…?

What skills can I bring?

  • Analytical
  • Creative
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Prototyping
  • etc…

I bring:

  • Curiosity
  • Grit
  • Growth mindset
  • Openness
  • etc…

We have been using this insight in the development of many of our projects to date, including our unique Zoo Train Engineering project.

What would we like to see as students develop talents that are valued in engineers?

Not surprisingly, this structure works pretty well for talking through what we heard from the group. 


  • Building things
  • Working with tools
  • Working with materials and other resources
  • Designing solutions for real world problems
  • Using mathematical reasoning to flesh out and evaluate design options
  • Working as part of a team
  • Problem solving in a context that emphasizes process over results
  • Working alongside a college student or professional to understand how they approach engineering challenges
  • Presenting their work to an authentic audience


  • Comfort with introductory statistics
  • “Calculus ready” math knowledge by high school graduation
  • Physics
  • Understanding of how materials go together


  • Knowing an engineer that “looks like me”
  • Feeling part of a team


  • Spatial thinking
  • Effective time management
  • Able to listen to and understand a customer’s needs
  • Able to use empathy and observation to identify or understand a problem someone else has.
  • Able to build a solid understanding of a problem before jumping to solutions
  • Able to effectively communicate one’s ideas


  • Able to self direct learning
  • Willingness to explore “risky” options
  • Having a sense of ownership of one’s work
  • Resourcefulness — willing to seek out help or other resources to gain understanding
  • Willingness to accept “failure”– e.g. recognize that a solution does not work and learn from that.
  • Willingness to recognize that the first, last, or their own idea for a possible solution may not be the best approach
  • Problem seeking — willingness to see out problems that might be interesting to solve

What do effective farm systems in other domains look like?

In preparation for the session we pulled together the following table, which sketches out the formal and informal opportunities students have to develop their talents in sports and music. As one ponders what a farm system for engineering talent might look like, one question that jumps out to us is where are the opportunities for play, and are they available to students who’s families may not have the resources to provide materials which can allow that to happen.

Informal play Pick up games with friends/family, might include a mix of ages; no requirement for full field or team–e.g. play with what and who you have availableNo emphasis on practice, but one might get some informal coaching/feedback from other participants during play  (“nice pass”, “next time you are doing that, look for…”) Play alone or with friends/family. Might include a mix of ages; no requirement for specific combination of instruments–e.g. play with what and who you have available.No emphasis on practice, but one might get some informal coaching/feedback from other participants during play  (“nice lick”, “next time you are doing that, look for…”) 
Informal practice Practice skills on one’s own or with friends/familyPractice skills on one’s own or with band mates
School class: play + practice  Major focus is on play, with some practice of skillsMajor focus is on play, with some practice of skills
School team/group or development program: focused practice  + playregular practice aimed at skill development regular play as an opportunity to exercise skills strong social component with an opportunity to learn from more skilled peersregular practice aimed at skill developmentregular play as an opportunity to exercise skillsstrong social component with an opportunity to learn from more skilled peers
Private lessons: focused practice regular practice and feedback aimed at skill development  regular practice and feedback aimed at skill development  
Master Class
Feedback from outside professionals with emphasis on skill development
Performances/games; competitions/tournamentsdemonstration play with chance to test skills against peersdemonstration play; chance to test skills against peers
Opportunities to guide younger participants:youth coach or ref?
Opportunities to observe others:Games played by peersProfessional gamesYou tube videos of games and skillsMusic played by peers
Professional concertsYou tube videos of concerts and skills

So what might an effective farm system for engineering talent look like?

Key ideas that came out of our discussion include:

  • Programming/curriculum is aligned across grade levels so that students have a chance to build on skills they’ve begun to develop;
  • Students and teachers are able to engage with industry expertise in the context of authentic projects. The easiest way for industry to participate is to have a clear ask– what expertise do you need when to do what. Having something concrete to respond to makes it much easier for a firm to see how well that effort aligns with their own goals for community engagement or talent development.
  • Students are given the opportunity to practice in context. Students need multiple opportunities to run through the engineering design cycle on projects that matter to them.
  • Students have a chance to prototype and work with materials throughout the design process and use that experience to refine their thinking about both the problem at hand and potential solutions.
  • Projects are structured with a strong emphasis on process to help students resist the temptation to jump to a solution before understanding the problem, be willing to explore “riskier” ideas, and to aim for knowledge gain over “the right solution”.
  • Students have informal opportunities to play with engineering in the same ways they might with music or sports.
  • Students build technical skills in math and physics in concert with engineering design. PLTW is not a substitute for a math or physics class, but a complement to it.
  • There is a community of practitioners working together to develop engineering talent. That community includes K-12 educators, university faculty, organizations that provide STEM programming, and industry expertise willing to work with students. Through ongoing collaboration, this community can build and strengthen the relationships that allow its members to find new opportunities for students.

What’s next?

Our next two Collab Labs provide opportunities to explore some of the ideas raised in this session.  The March 12th session is focused on our Career Interviews project. We’re working with UWM and area high schools to prototype a process where students interview folks engaged in interesting work in Milwaukee. Beyond giving students a broader sense of what’s possible to do, we see this collaborative effort as an easy way for students to make an initial connection with folks in industry.

Our April Collab Lab will focus on tapping industry expertise.  This will be an opportunity to take a deeper look at the types of engagements most valuable to educators and students, what makes that engagement worthwhile for both individuals and their employers, and what could help reduce the friction around matching expertise with educators who want to leverage it.

Join us for either or both sessions to share your perspective and ideas.

As we continue to digest what we heard at the session and in conversations that have continued afterwards, we have a couple of other ideas we’re exploring.  Stay tuned or let us know if you’d like to get involved!

One more thing…

One of the folks I connected with as we planned Tuesday’s session was Shannon Smyth, the Youth Technical Director for the North Shore United Soccer Club. Shannon trains youth coaches in the methods recently adopted by US Soccer not just as a way to help students more rapidly develop technical skills, but to build broader participation and the creative talent of players coming up through the system. Shannon sees a lot of parallels between efforts to keep girls engaged in sport and those to keep them engaged in STEM. We shared an overview of the Play-Practice-Play model Shannon uses in advance of the session. You can find that here.

STEM Studio

Last spring, with funding from Northwestern Mutual, we conducted interviews with teachers and mentors involved with MPS’s efforts to introduce Project GUTS, SHARP Literacy’s Design Through Code (DTC) program, TEALS, and First Robotics. The goal was to understand how we might expand opportunities to develop computational thinking outside of computer science classes, by listening to what drew teachers and mentors already engaged in that type of activity to take on the task. We provided a recap of that work here.

One of the ideas that came out of that effort was to work with teams of teachers and expertise from the broader community to create and pilot real world projects that provide solid opportunities to engage students in computational thinking. We call that the STEM Studio, and are happy to report that Northwestern Mutual has provided funding to design and pilot the first projects with MPS.

Since environmental science is a spring semester focus for MPS middle schools, we used our November Collab Lab on Green Infrastructure to generate ideas for potential projects. One of those is the Southeastern Wisconsin Watershed’s Trust’s (Sweetwater) Adopt a Storm Drain Program. As we talked about what that might look like as a STEM Studio project, Sweetwater pointed us to the Smart City Reverse RFP offered by Caravela IoT. That initiative seeks to demonstrate the potential to leverage a network of sensors that detect environmental data. Winning submissions would receive both equipment and technical support to pilot a project. We partnered with MPS, Sweetwater and Reflo to put in a joint proposal which uses STEM Studio pilot projects to both deploy sensors and expose students to the technology. We were selected as one of the winners and are happy to now have Caravela IoT engaged with us in the STEM Studio effort.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be pulling our teams of teachers together with community partners to design and pilot the experiences we want students to have as they take on the STEM Studio projects. Collab Lab attendees will know that one of our criteria for projects we get involved in is the ability to scale across schools with network effects. As part of the STEM Studio pilots, we’ll work with the teams to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what the next cohort of teachers will want to have in place to take on or extend the challenge in their schools.

Collab Lab 32: Recap & Notes

Last Thursday’s Collab Lab explored what teacher-centric professional development might look like.  We had participants introduce themselves by sharing their best and worst PD experiences. As we listened to those conversations, one thing that stood out was the number of times the physical setting of the PD session came into play– an offsite location offered an opportunity to shift thinking, a session which had teachers sitting on cafeteria benches for two hours conveyed that those planning the session had not considered what the experience would be like for participants.

With those experiences as background, the first task for attendees was to inventory what they hope to gain/provide through PD. Those ideas fell into several broad categories:

Enthusiasm & Inspiration:

  • Excitement to replicate and extend
  • Inspiration
  • Enthusiasm
  • Enhancement of skills
  • Excitement — I want to leave and keep on working on it
  • Exciting change focused, purposeful, sound rationale
  • Transformation
  • Motivation to do what is best for students
    • their learning
    • their retention
    • their personal growth
  • Fun, humor, interactive
  • How PD looks for females

Gain Knowledge

  • Gain Knowledge about specific tech subjects– AI, VR, etc.
  • Learn to engage students in new technologies purposefully
  • See great pedagogy modeled and be able to practice it
  • Rich content
  • Increase knowledge…
    • student relationships
    • engaging students
  • Knowledge that pertains to me!
  • Chance to learn from everyone in the room [recognize the experience in the room]
  • Develop a different perspective regarding those around us
  • Resources
  • Realistic or tangible outcomes
  • Share researched based best practices
  • Access to new information
  • Knowledge
  • Current best practices
  • New perspectives
  • Authentic experiences
  • Actionable skills, knowledge, connections


  • A space to collaborate & innovate
  • Ideas surrounding achieving classroom equity at the college and eventually university level
  • Follow up/accountability
  • Engagement through action and collaboration
  • Applicable/relevant
  • Processing time
  • Opportunities to reflect
  • Group of similar professionals for
    • encouragement
    • support
    • common passion
  • A tribe


  • Connections for students
  • Authentic experiences
  • Excitement, passion, purpose
  • Exposure to other experts, mentors, coaches
  • Real access to tools, tech, mindset of others in an interest area
  • Contacts/networking
  • Fellow, passionate learners
  • Teacher to teacher PD
  • Respect as a capable adult learner
  • Opportunities to share my expertise
  • Form a supportive community
  • Increase collaboration among staff on working with students
  • Growing a community of learners.

Stretch & dive deep

  • Be forced to struggle and stretch
  • A desire to want more — go deeper
  • Stretch
  • Deeper investment in your work
  • Student PD — if you could learn anything at school what would it be?
  • Domain specific PD
  • Become better/more effective at what you want to do
  • Opportunities for students to grow, motivate their self in learning

Visions of what PD could be

With this broad set of goals in hand, we allowed a bit more time for conversation about how one might realize one more of those. From there we asked attendees to pair up and create a vision of what PD that aims to meet some of those goals might look like. Here’s some of what was shared.

Implementation of a school wide-initiative


  • One big goal or vision for whole school

It is not

  • A lecture
  • Cookie cutter


  • all stakeholders [in strategic teams that make sense]

It happens

  • Off site, neutral territory
  • As a 3-5 year plan with set SMART goals and monthly check in intervals

I’m able to leverage it 

  • Because all other PD is filtered through this vision
  • As a realistic shared vision — teams set goals aligned with vision



  • Supporting persistence & community

It does not

  • Have a top-down structure
  • Feel contrived


  •  A group of people with a shared goal

It happens

  • In varied settings, especially getting people out of their everyday environment
  • Settings where everyday pressures are less pressing (leave town?)
  • Includes both structured and unstructured time

I’m able to leverage it

  • By having the flexibility to allow good things to happen
  • Let participants lead

A specific helpful computer program (one of many)

Focused on

  • Benefits & “how tos” of a new program

It is not

  • Condescending
  • Just a lecture
  • A one one and done or passing trend

It includes for participants

  • Hands on exploration
  • QA, comments, input from participants
  • Brainstorming, how could you use this?
  • Builds enthusiasm
  • Offers + schedule of follow up support for participants at all levels
  • Time for follow up
  • Research based, relevant
  • Of value — time saving/increased effectiveness

Team Cohesion

Focused on

  • Creating a more collaborative and safe team environment by establishing norms and committing to action

It does not

  • Provide space for admiring the problem and creating blame

It includes as participants

  • The entire team

It happens

  • At a retreat

I’m able to leverage it 

  • By creating a commitment to change and holding myself accountable for it.

Mindful moments


  • Transitions when students enter class. Being present and acknowledging current mental state/capacity for learning. 
  • Self compassion, self awareness, self efficacy

It does not

  • Have lectures or assignments
  • Mandate the rules of how to apply or engage


  • Teachers/faculty

It happens

  • 45-50 minutes initial time of session demonstrating strategies for teachers to learn and practice
  • Follow up email with people who are practicing/to share with others

I’m able to leverage it

  • At the end of the session we build an accountability partnership with other session goers. Email each other to check in once a week for three weeks. After that the partnership will re-assess

Power of Data – GIS


  • Scientific inquiry using GIS technology
  • Create individual lesson plans
  • Argue from evidence

It is not

  • A lecture


  • Educators– formal & informal

It happens 

  • As active learning over a 35 hour block

I’m able to leverage

  • Software
  • Career stories
  • Data collection
  • Varied context



  • Differentiation
    • access
    • accountability
  • learner needs, not roll out of programs

It does not

  • Disrespect the learner. Rather, it encourages choice, voice of participants


  • Leaders
  • Experts
  • Learners

It happens

  • During regular employee hours but can continue after ours or on vacations

I’m able to leverage it

  • Online, finding continuous connections, learning, teaching others
  • Us in classroom and in other profession
  • By sharing with colleagues

Equity Boot Camp


  • Equity — education & community
  • Misconceptions about race & identity
  • Racial inequality

It does not

  • Teach historical wrongs ONLY
  • Focus on people of color ONLY
  • Take it easy


  • Educators
  • Politicians
  • Advocates
  • Naysayers

It happens

  • At a ranch over a weekend in August

I’m able to leverage this to 

  • Tap into people’s desires
  • Immerse people in transformation
  • Take actions (planned during the retreat)
  • Use monthly check-ins and a return in January to move towards resolution)


Thanks to Dec Code Camp for providing the space and to our featured participants for sharing their expertise and ideas:

Amber DuChateau — Education Design and Technology Consultant, UWM School of Nursing

Joe Du Fore — Director of Business Development, Wisconsin Education Innovations

Shaba Martinez — Digital Learning & Library Media Specialist, Bruce Guadalupe Community School

Angela McCarty — Director of Education Services, Milwaukee Teacher Education Center (MTEC)

Deidre Roemer — Director of Leadership and Learning, West Allis West Milwaukee School District


Our participants shared a number of resources.  Here’s the list:

Code for Milwaukee Internship Program Code for Milwaukee is a civic technology non-profit that builds out projects that serve the greater Milwaukee community and beyond. They are starting an internship program that is open to middle and high school students who will help build out a technology based solution to solve a problem our community faces


UWM Power of Data Workshops: 35 hour paid professional development program that enables st secondary teachers to increase students’ content knowledge, 21 Century Skills and awareness of geospatial technology careers through Geospatial Inquiry and data analysis.  June 2020

Wisconsin ArcGIS Map Contest The 2020 Wisconsin map contest is part of the Esri national student ArcGIS Online competition. It is open to all Wisconsin middle and high school students.

UWM Hosts Zoo Train Design Review

This past Friday, UWM’s College of Engineering hosted the conceptual design review for students in this year’s Zoo Train Challenge. Teams from 10 area schools presented their ideas to re-work the coal handling process for the Zoo’s steam locomotives.

The Zoo’s current process has train staff manually sift coal into 17 gallon buckets that may weigh 80 to 90 pounds when full. These are then carried over an often slippery, uneven surface where they are staged for use later in the day. When the train stops at the depot to take on passengers, the train crew will hoist and dump these bucket’s into the train’s coal bin, which is close to four feet above ground level. The train team is also concerned with the deteriorating condition of the coal bin and a retaining wall against which coal ash and fines are stored prior to removal.

New Berlin Eisenhower students present their design concepts. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

At this point in the process, most teams focused on the design of a new coal bin that could keep the coal sheltered from rain, and automating or augmenting the process of sifting and loading coal. Teams presented their designs to review panels that included zoo train operators, staff from We Energies coal handing facility, students and faculty from industrial engineering programs at UWM and MSOE, and engineers with GZA Environmental and Komatsu.

  • Elmbrook Launch

Following each presentation, teams responded to questions and feedback from both panelists and peers from other teams. Both panelists and students in the audience for other presentations also provide written feedback for each team.

Golda Meir students provide feedback on presentation by their peers . (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

Students will use the feedback and ideas they gained from this session to finalize their designs. The final design review for the project will be hosted by MSOE at the end of April.

Nothing interesting happens in a classroom without a teacher willing to say yes, so we are extremely grateful to the teachers who stepped up to get their students involved. Thanks also to all those who helped pull both the project and review session together, and of course, the students who have taken on the challenge!

UWM has a brief write-up of the event here: https://uwm.edu/news/gallery/milwaukee-area-students-create-solutions-for-zoo-train/

Zoo train Schools and Teachers

  • Elmbrook Launch – Ryan Osterberg
  • Golda Meir – Tina Gleason
  • Menomonee Falls – Robert Regent-Smith
  • New Berlin Eisenhower – Devin McKinnon
  • New Berlin West – Bill Trudell
  • Pathways High School – Angelique Byrne/Chris Kjaer
  • St. Joan Antida – Cynthia McLinn/Melissa Peppler
  • St. Thomas More – Emily Pirkl
  • Wauwatosa East – Julibeth Favour
  • West Allis Dottke – Bernie McCarthy

Collab Lab 31: Recap & Notes

Our December Collab Lab focused on student run enterprises. We were interested in the kinds of experiences participants hoped students might gain through participation in a student run enterprise.

Our process for the session took a slightly different approach, starting with how we wanted to students to talk about their experience. Our goal was statements that demonstrate a high level of engagement, but are also evocative enough that we could start to imagine how a student run enterprise might foster such an experience.

The initial brainstorming process generated a long list of experience statements, including:

  • “I worked really hard because the results really mattered”
  • “This program helped me find my passion.”
  • “The work here is important to me personally.”
  • “I’m glad I can be myself, express my mind freely.”
  • “I got to know myself better.”
  • “I grew as a person.”
  • “It was my favorite class ever.”
  • “I never thought I could do this.”
  • (with pride) “This is my project!”
  • “I chose to stay because of this.”
  • “I was able to make decisions that allowed me to take risks and learn from mistakes to help our business be more successful.”
  • “I learned how to fail.”
  • “There are real consequences for my actions in this enterprises.”
  • “I felt more empowered than ever.”
  • “This experience allowed me to really own my learning and let me take something I am interested in to a level I couldn’t have done without this experience.”
  • “I have a voice and I have value.”
  • “I understand my role.”
  • “I am proud of what exists here.”
  • “I am valuable to this business.”
  • “This experience helped me see how a business could not only help me but help the community.”
  • “The experiences I’ve had make me think about what I can do to help my community.”
  • “This experience allowed me to grow as a student leader and collaborate with others.”
  • “I have a better understanding of money, how it is created, and whether or not it has value.”
  • “I used the skills I acquired to further my knowledge and abilities.”
  • “I remembered doing this activity in class and could apply the technique learned to help myself.”
  • “This helped me learn how to apply my skills in the real world.”
  • “As a person, it made me make better decisions.  As a member of my community it made me open my eyes and grow up.”
  • “It helped me figure out what I want to do with my life.”

With that list in hand, we asked participants to form small teams to talk through ideas for how a student run enterprise might help students have one or more of those experiences. Our second process change was to have these ideas expressed as “What if we…” questions. We wanted to see if that led to more expansive thinking. Here’s what they came up with:

Individuality Initiative

We hope students might say…

  • “I learned to fail”
  • “This program helped me find my passion”
  • “I have a voice. I have value.”

What if we…

  • created an environment where students weren’t as fearful of failing, but instead were encouraged to learn from their failures ;
  • created a survey or interview process to identify appropriate enterprises and their roles within them;
  • encouraged an education system that catered to helping students find their passion instead of telling them what they should be?

Failing with Open Minds

We hope students might say…

  • “I learned to fail”
  • “I found my passion”

What if we…

  • allowed kids to fail;
  • allowed kids to pursue their passion and explore themselves;
  • sourced innovation from kids?
  • encouraged all to fail of front of an authentic, receptive audience with an open mind while pursuing a curiosity which can become a passion after taking a risk?

Sustainable Futures/Business with an Impact

We hope students might say…

“This experience connects passion to community and allows us to thing about our impact”

What if we…

  • challenge them to make a product or service that helps the environment or community;
  • challenges them to create a business or product that reduces their impact on the environment;
  • create a business that would help their specific neighborhood issue?

Change Agent

We hope students might say…

“I feel more empowered than ever”

What if …

  • this purpose already means something to me;
  • I am interested to lead;
  • we make the community better?

Milwaukee Made

We hope students might say…

“It was so great to work with other students of all ages and to make money and learn how to be successful in a business.”

What if we…

  • break down barriers to students creating a business;
  • we worked with an elementary school, high school, and college to create a store/experience for students to learn from each other to make a real business;
  • raised confidence and creativity through working with college professors and students in collaboration;
  • used the new Marquette space in Schlitz Park to sell the produces of student enterprises and employ high school students to work in the store/paid students for the products they sell;
  • collaborate with Marquette, MATC, Pathways High & Golda Meir to do so?

Try – Fail – Reflect (repeat)

We hope students might say…

“I learned how to fail.”

What if we…

  • take time to reflect after failure;
  • normalized failure;
  • push students outside of their comfort zone?

Thanks to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for sharing their expertise and ideas:

Que El-Amin Co founder Young Enterprising Society

Claire Friona — Co-founder of Agricycle Global

Jill Hughes — Senior Business Academy instructor, Menomonee Falls High School

Owen Raisch — Associate Director, Student-Run Business Program at Marquette University

Collab Lab 30: Recap & Notes

Our November Collab Lab focused on opportunities to engage students around green infrastructure. We asked participants to brainstorm ideas around different types of green infrastructure as they are designed, installed or in service, using the inventory provided within the City of Milwaukee’s Green Infrastructure Plan. From there we paired up educators with representatives from industry, higher-ed, non-profits, and local government and had them flesh out a specific idea in greater detail.

Here’s what they came up with:

Identify targets sites for green infrastructure

Identify vacant lots in the students’ neighborhood to active and install stormwater trees, gardens, community art.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Stormwater trees
  • Native landscaping
  • Regenerative stormwater conveyance
  • Greenways & land conservation

Phases targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation

Desired experience for students:

  • Mapping GIS
  • Think about neighborhood & community
  • This is worth it!
  • Evidence and argument
  • Budgeting and finance
  • Understanding different land use/space factors
  • History of the area, why a particular lot is vacant
  • Cultural experience of neighborhood as an influence to art
  • Durability of art

What students will need:

  • Mapping software
  • Data
  • Facilitator/guides to support — experts, & exemplars
  • Documentation and presentation skills

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • UWM School of Architecture & Urban Planning
  • Youth Council @ City Hall
  • Pocket parks tour

How students might share their work:

  • Video
  • Podcast
  • Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
  • Story Map
  • Social media/website
  • Share with community service organizations, the experts that helped them.
  • Storytelling– “What did I learn”

Art within Native Landscaping

Design art projects within a native landscape

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Native Landscaping

Desired experience for students:

  • Cross curricula – art/science/math
  • Exploring new things
  • Youth voice/leadership
  • New materials
  • Mentoring
  • Culture

What students will need:

  • Guidance/leadership to understand and get excited
  • Research on native landscapes, sustainable materials (what they are, why they are important)
  • Location, calendar, transportation

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Partner with college students
  • Landscape/gardening experts

How students might share their work:

  • Community grand opening, with presentation by youth
  • Garden Gallery (art) night

Low tech watering systems

Create olla pots or other system to water gardens when students/volunteers may not be available to do so.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns

Phases targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation
  • In Use

Desired experience for students:

  • Research the history of olla pots
  • Design a system where rain barrels fill the pots (how many rain barrels?)
  • Calculate how much water might be captured
  • Determine the size of pots that might be necessary for a particular garden or space
  • Monitor gardens to make sure the system is working
  • Compare performance at different times of year
  • Evaluate how the long the system can run without support
  • Calibrate the outflow rate from rain barrels so that it is most effective

What students will need:

  • History of olla pots & agriculture
  • Math — planning for the # of pots for the area
  • Science — expected rainfall for the area, ecology, human impact
  • Communication skills — share what they did
  • Reading & writing
  • Arts — decorating barrels, making their own pots @ schools with kiln [can we make our own rain barrels?]

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Community connections for support in monitoring
  • Environmental engineers
  • fresh coast guardians from MMSD
  • Teens Grow Greens for different ideas on irrigation
  • Pottery infrastructure

How students might share their work:

  • video story
  • Present @ Science Strikes Back? [Escuela Verde?]
  • Share after a full growing season for data collection
  • Share publicly — news, radio, social media, USDA

Butterfly Garden

Reclaim paved area of “playground” for stormwater management and wildlife habitat restoration.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Native landscaping
  • Bioswales
  • Depaving
  • Soil Amendments

Phases targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation
  • In use

What students should experience:

  • Design process — native plants, permaculture, pollinator habitat, education of younger students
  • Self directed personalized learning

What students will need:

  • Research skills
  • Curiosity
  • Information sources
  • Access to professionals/experts

How students might share their work:

  • Photo voice
  • Signage
  • Newsletters & written media

Permeable paving meets math

Use installation of permeable paving as a chance to exercise mathematical thinking.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Permeable paving

What students should experience:

  • Apply math concepts (geometry, algebra, etc) when designing permeable walkway through a park
  • Art, design, science of materials
  • Exploration of career paths
  • Presentation of findings

What students will need:

  • Access to practitioners
  • Manipulation/manufacturing of materials
  • Best practices for fitting pieces together
  • Permeable paving vs alternatives
  • Cost data for possible choices — installation, maintenance, long term costs

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Practitioners: non profits, contractors, college student mentors
  • MMSD
  • Artists
  • Landscapers
  • Tours of UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, GWC, MMSD, etc.)

How students might share their work:

  • Green Students Conference
    • Opportunity for students across schools/districts to present GI projects to each other
    • Green job fair — in part, the conference could be funded by exhibitors (engineers, landscapers, etc.) who do a job fair

GI Scavenger hunt

Inventory and map green infrastructure within students’ community; identify where water is coming from; find as many examples as possible, create a map using GIS software

What students should experience:

  • The possibilities that exist in different areas
  • Problem solving using mapping software
  • Ability to visualize things on a map

What students will need:

  • Mapping software and an introduction to using it
  • General location for finding green infrastructure
  • Lesson on green infrastructure installations and interventions

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Students who did bigger project

How students might share their work:

  • Story map

Water quality assessment

Assess the water quality in the local community

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Rain gardens
  • Soil Amendments

What students should experience:

  • Data analysis
  • Hands on development of project
  • Ownership & involvement
  • Success & Impact

What students will need:

  • Space
  • Native plants
  • Raspberry Pi computer
  • Types of soil
  • Types of compost
  • Gravel
  • Sensors for moisture/contamination
  • Water quality test kits

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Upham Woods — digital observation kits
  • Sweetwater – Adopt A Storm Drain
  • River Keepers
  • Plastic Free MKE

How students might share their work:

  • Social media
  • Murals
  • Logos
  • Mottos
  • Peer to peer education — teach others to continue project
  • Brand it
  • Give it legitimacy

Greening Alleys

Create a list of priorities for green alleys near a school, identify and collect the data to use in prioritizing the alleys.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Green streets and alleys

What students should experience:

  • Surveying the neighborhood
  • Identifying improvements and analyzing lowest cost estimates of putting in improvements
  • Communication of survey, improvements,

What students will need:

  • Access to expertise
  • Computers/data sets
  • Estimation software/templates

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • MMSD — Lisa Sasso, Bre Plier, Nadia Vogt
  • DPW — Nader Jabber
  • WDNE — Ben Benninghoff, Samantha Katt
  • Civil Engineers — Justin Hegerty (Reflo), Kara Koch (SSE)
  • Communications specialist

How students might share their work:

  • Entering the project in a competition
  • Via website/communication pieces they design
  • Presenting at a conference
  • Presenting to politicians/city administrators

Intervention as Art

Create an environmental solution that is a form of art

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns [start here but then see where it may connect to something else]

What students should experience:

  • Allow students to develop creative problem solving, apply multiple disciplines (math, science, etc.) in order to create a solution
  • Allow student to assess the financial components/cost of implementing the art

What students will need:

  • Location to meet
  • Access to technology and materials
  • Sample size materials to create prototype of artwork
  • Transportation
  • Design expertise (art coaches/artists)
  • Self determination

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Artists
  • Engineers
  • Government officials & leaders
  • Foundations
  • Contractors (in trades)

How students might share their work:

  • Social media
  • Press engagements
  • Unveiling events
  • Presentations

GI target map

Map neighborhood to identify opportunities to install green infrastructure

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Native landscaping
  • Bioswales
  • Green streets & alleys
  • Soil amendments

Phase targeted:

  • Design

What students should experience:

  • Gain understanding of neighborhood and existing conditions
  • Gain understanding of community stakeholders
  • Build researching skills (reputable data)
  • Become informed skeptics
  • Gain understanding of types & applications for green infrastructure

What students will need:

  • Background in types of GI
  • Mapping support — map individual neighborhoods, add all to larger map
  • Critical thinking/perseverance
  • People skills — coaching/modeling
  • Arrange stakeholder meetings/presentations
  • Watershed locations

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Reflo
  • Eco Office
  • Environmental Engineers
  • SFS
  • Community organizations in neighborhood

How students might share their work:

  • Social media posts
  • Health fair at North Division
  • MPS STEM Fair

Heat Islands

Monitor/change heat island effect through interactive materials

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Native landscaping
  • Bioswales
  • Stormwater trees
  • Depaving
  • Green streets & alleys
  • Greenways & land conservation
  • Green roofs

Phase targeted:

  • In use

What students should experience:

  • Gain an appreciation for environmental awareness
  • Visually see how GI can reduce heat island effect

What students will need:

  • Thermal imaging – drone
  • Students map with “hot spots”
  • Identify areas that would benefit from green infrastructure
  • What could be done– trees plants, gardens
  • See how different GI might reduce heat

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Engineering firms with surveyors
  • College students who work with GIS

How students might share their work:

  • Presentation to town, city, community
  • Design plan
  • From the areas identified, have students go to companies to implement or advertise their action plan

Designing School Building Projects

Allow students to design landscape areas; promote mentor-ship to have older students work with younger students; during construction, kids can monitor waste vs recycled materials

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Native landscaping
  • Stormwater trees
  • Soil amendments

Phase targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation
  • In use

What students should experience:

  • Sense of ownership, cooperation, achievement
  • Growing consumable product
  • Science

What students will need:

  • Planting science and how to nurture
  • Planting buddies

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Contractors
  • Landscapers
  • Engineers
  • Business relationships for recycling
  • Farmers

How students might share their work:

  • Through food on table
  • Science & math through recycling
  • Personal development through succeeding in the process

Watershed Challenge

How can we positively effect the watershed in a way that will create buy in and support from the community

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Rain gardens
  • Stormwater trees
  • Soil amendments

Phases targeted:

  • Design

What students should experience:

  • Career connections
  • Get out in the field
  • Community connections – picking up trash connected to effects on watershed, talking to community, brainstorming community problems
  • Urban water cycle – treatment plant
  • Science/environmental connection — labs to “see it”
  • Interdisciplinary — data, writing, technology

What students will need:

  • Background knowledge– getting off campus, maps science
  • Access to to local experts
  • Community connections — talking to people in neighborhood, observing the location
  • Structure/system for the design part of the project

Who students should meet as part of the effort:

  • Water school
  • Washington Park Urban Ecology Center
  • Storm Water Solutions
  • Engineers that design infrastructure — public & private
  • Go to a school that did a similar project
  • Groundworks MKE
  • Milwaukee Water Commons
  • Reflo
  • MMSD (Christina Taddy)
  • River Keeper
  • Plastic Free MKE
  • Sweetwater (Adopt a Storm Drain)
  • Upham Woods

Artful Capstone

Bring math, science, and art together for artful landscaping solutions; understanding the design process

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Permeable pavement
  • Green Roofs [hotels & apartments]

What students should experience:

  • Awareness of environment
  • Seeing project through to completion
  • Impact on community
  • Puzzle solving
  • Design process
  • Connecting things to their everyday life
  • Opportunities to see career options

What students will need:

  • Time
  • Parental support
  • Access to opportunities
  • Mentoring
  • Inspiration
  • Pragmatic examples
  • Connections to their lives
  • Opportunity to take risks

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Mentors
  • Government officials
  • Home owners
  • Community members

How students might share their work:

  • Authentic audience
  • Other students around the world through
    • Tik Tok
    • 20 20
    • 15s Film
    • Pachakucha

Thanks to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for sharing their expertise and ideas:

Catherine Bronikowski — Math Dept. Chair, North Division High School

Justin Hegarty — Executive Director
Lisa Neeb — Green Schools Project Manager
Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions

Kara Koch — Senior Project Engineer,  Stormwater Solutions Engineering

Linda Reid — Principal,  Water 365

Erick Shambarger — Director of Environmental Sustainability, City of Milwaukee

Rosheen Styczinski — Principal/Landscape Architect, New Eden Landscape Architecture

James Wasley — Professor, UWM School of Architecture & Urban Planning


MATC Students Put Zoo Train on the Map

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