Collab Lab 15: Recap & Notes

How can we provide K12 students with opportunities to explore real world healthcare issues that have meaning for them?

We thought we’d try and find some. Last night we pulled educators from across the area together with healthcare researchers and professionals. We asked Brian King, a Collab Lab regular and former Director of Innovation for the Milwaukee Jewish Day School to facilitate.  Brian’s work with students to develop and launch student run projects with a social purpose help make him the right person to guide the group through what we wanted to accomplish. In short, to generate ideas for projects that:

  • are meaningful to students;
  • allow for the participation of students from multiple schools/districts;
  • allow teachers and students build connections to the broader community.

The thinking here is to get beyond programs that may link a single school or small group of students to a single organization.  Those connections can still happen through any of the project ideas that came out of the process.  We see a better chance to scale up the number of these connections with more open-ended projects that can grow and evolve as schools find their own ways to participate based on the interests of students, drawing in new community partners at the same time.

Participants started the evening with some Post-It Note brainstorming on the top five health related issues faced by school-age children. Three volunteers grouped these by topic.  We talked through each cluster, did a bit of rearranging and pulled out our blue dots for a vote on which topics were most important.

The result was three topics that would become the focus for the next stage of our work:

  • Stress/Mental Health
  • Physical Health
  • Obesity/Nutrition
Photo of Brian facilitating Collab Lab 15
Brian at work facilitating

Brian split the workshop participants into three groups to sketch out what a prototype program around each issue might look like.  The groups talked through our threshold considerations:

  • What aspects of your group’s issue would be most engaging for kids to explore?
  • Which aspects of this issue could kids realistically research or effect change?

And then addressed our guiding questions for their prototype:

  • Who are the students you would involve?
  • What goal(s) do you have for them?
  • What would they do?
  • Where/when would this happen?
  • Who are the partners you’d need to bring your project to life?

Here’s what we came up with…

Stress/Mental Health

Challenge: Screen Free for 24 hours

Recognizing that the use of social media can amplify the stress of school, this project challenges both students and staff to go screen free for 24 hours.  In preparation for the challenge, students/staff would lay down the ground rules for what counts as a screen, and develop plans to address tasks they currently use a screen to complete– how will we report attendance, how will students let their parents know they are ready to be picked up?

Both students and staff would document how they expect to react to a screen free day, the choices they made during the day when they otherwise may have used a screen, and a post challenge assessment of what it felt like.  The project will require the cooperation and support of student’s families. Media coverage could help spur participants to live up to the challenge and encourage other schools to participate.


Physical Health

Design & Build an Adventure Playground

This project would partner high school students with those in elementary grades to design and build playground that will encourage positive risk taking and problem solving.  Perhaps guided by a community planning organization, the high school students would work with a group of younger students to determine what the younger students would find engaging.

To complete the work, the project envisions connecting students to mentors who can help them with selecting a location, design, engineering, construction, marketing, and considerations for students with special needs.  The team also envisioned connecting the group to mentors who could help tie the project to curriculum goals and understand the impact of design decisions on the level and type of physical activity users of the playground were likely to engage in.



Healthy Food Passport

The specifics of the program would vary by age group. but the goal is to have students research a culture or cuisine and then craft a healthy version of the selected dish. Bonus points if the students grow the ingredients.  Inspired by the notion that “Food is how culture talks”, the team envisions a food fair where families are invited to sample the dishes, and stories about the dish may be shared.

Through the project, the team aims for students to gain an understanding the food production process (e.g. where food comes from), help build family connections to the school and increase exposure to different fruits and vegetables.


Interested in helping move one of these projects forward?

If you’d like to get together with others to flesh out one of these projects in greater detail let us know.

    Screen Free for 24 HoursDesign & Build an Adventure PlaygroundHealthy Food Passport

    During the school dayA weekday eveningA Saturday morningA Saturday afternoonA Sunday morning

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

    Christopher J Simenz, PhD, NSCA CSCS*D- Clinical Professor,
    Department of Physical Therapy- Programs in Exercise Science, Marquette University

    Jennifer Tarcin – Menomonee Falls High School Healthcare Academy Coordinator; Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Community Memorial Hospital Healthcare Career Academy Faculty Liaison

    Jonathan Wertz — Director of Clinical Risk Management, Medical College of Wisconsin

    Kristina Kaljo, PhD — Assistant Professor and Co-Director for the Third-Year Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Student Clerkship, Medical College of Wisconsin


    2023-24 Collab Labs

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