STEM Studio ’23: Open Studio

What if you could turn an idea for a real world project into a community-engaged learning experience that takes your students on a hero’s journey?

Have an idea for a project you’d like your students to take during the coming school year?

Wondering how to turn that from something that happens inside the classroom to a quest that takes your students beyond their known world, connects with outside expertise, challenges their thinking, and allows them to return with something to offer their community?

Open Studio is your place to let your creative and organizational juices flow. Over the course of two half-day sessions at our location inside the WE Energies STEM Center at MSOE, we’ll work with you to frame the challenge, identify resources, and foster the connections that can help bring your ideas to life. Come to one or both sessions, stay as long as you want to develop something you can use right away once school starts up.


You’ll come out of these sessions with a framework to take your students on a hero’s journey, understand where and how to tap outside expertise and programming, and identify potential collaborators.

  • Key events to mark the students’ journey
  • Field experiences participating schools might leverage to inform and support the work of students and teachers engaged in the project
  • Community partners who might support the work of students and teachers
  • Artifacts students will produce as part of the effort


Friday, July 28th 9:00 am to noon
Friday, July 28th 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Friday, August 4th 11:00 am – 1:00 pm Showcase & Community Review

Who Should Attend

This session is open to K12 educators and those working with students in after school or outside programming who:

  • want to create opportunities to see students do great things,
  • have an idea for challenge they would like to offer their students,
  • are nervous about (not) having the structure, relationships, and support to pull off a community-engaged project.


This Open Studio is part of our ‘Summer Camp for Teachers’, STEM Studio

CL62: Celebration & Vision

You took on new challenges this year. What possibilities can you now see?

Season 8/Collab Lab 62

We’re moving to UWM for our final Collab Lab of the season to host the discussion as part of UWM’s Experiential Learning Day.  Our discussion will celebrate the work of students, teachers, and partners and look forward to what we now see as possible. Bring something to show off, stories to share, and, if you are up for it, the next adventure you have planned.

We’ll be meeting on campus at UWM’s Center for Student Experience and Talent (SET). We’ve worked with SET over the past two years to place close to 300 architecture students in service learning positions with area schools.  The Collab Lab will follow SET’s Presentation of Learning earlier in the afternoon where we will join a panel discussion on the project.

As always, you’ll be joined by peers and collaborators from K-12 higher education, industry, and the nonprofit community. If you work with or know of a student who would like to join the discussion, please extend the invitation.


5:30 to 6:00 pm Grab something to eat, meet some interesting, passionate people
6:00 to 6:15 pm Welcome and introductions
6:15 to 8:00 pm Let’s talk through some ideas
8:00 to 8:30 pm Wrap up and next steps

Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!


CL61: What Have We Learned From Students?

If we come away from work with students having learned nothing new ourselves, we can’t hope to do better for them the next time around.

Season 8/Collab Lab 61

We started the season with a challenge to Heed the Call of Students.

Did you heed the call?

If you heard that call, where did it take you?

What did you learn from your students?

As always, you’ll be joined by peers and collaborators from K-12 higher education, industry, and the nonprofit community. If you work with or know of a student who would like to join the discussion, please extend the invitation.


5:30 to 6:00 pm Grab something to eat, meet some interesting, passionate people
6:00 to 6:15 pm Welcome and introductions
6:15 to 8:00 pm Let’s talk through some ideas
8:00 to 8:30 pm Wrap up and next steps

Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!

Featured Participants

Stay tuned, we’re lining up a great group of Featured Participants you’ll want to have a chance to meet.

CL60: The Monster in the Cave

What do you do when the thing standing in the way of what you want for students or as a teacher is the system itself?

Season 8/Collab Lab 60

February’s Collab Lab focused on maintaining the energy and passion to sustain engagement of students in authentic work. This month we stare into the face of the monster in the cave– the thing that blocks us from offering all we might want for our students or what we need for ourselves. How do you drive change in a system that seeks stability?

As always, you’ll be joined by peers and collaborators from K-12 higher education, industry, and the nonprofit community. Additionally, if you work with or know of a student who would like to join the discussion, please extend the invitation


5:30 to 6:00 pm Grab something to eat, meet some interesting, passionate people
6:00 to 6:15 pm Welcome and introductions
6:15 to 8:00 pm Let’s talk through some ideas
8:00 to 8:30 pm Wrap up and next steps

Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!

Featured Participants

Among others you’ll have a chance to talk with:

Bevin Christie — Founder, Pivot Consulting

Bevin is a seasoned social entrepreneur and educator, who is deeply committed to holistic education and workforce development. She drives initiatives to equip individuals with skills for success in today’s economy through strategic partnerships and mentorship. With a background in nonprofit leadership and education, Bevin spearheads innovative programs that prepare students and adults for careers and foster community engagement. She believes in the transformative power of education for building a more just society.

Mandi McAlister & Jasmine Roberson — Fair Future Movement
Jasmine and Mandi are co-leaders of Fair Future Movement. That coalition of individuals and organizations is focused on uniting the community to overcome the racism and systems of oppression that have fractured our community, created unhealthy living environments and power imbalances, and exacerbated environmental injustices. Mandi is a community organizer, consultant, and environmental justice activist. Jasmine is a  community organizer and nonprofit professional who is passionate about racial justice, education equity, and criminal justice reform with a special interest in youth development.

Deidre Roemer — Superintendent, School District of South Milwaukee

Deidre joined the School District of South Milwaukee in July of 2023. Prior to that role she served as the Assistant Superintendent, Director of Leadership and Learning, Coordinator of Special Education, instructional coach, and classroom teacher. Her philosophy of education has always been to empower every learner with an absolute faith in themselves to be curious, try anything, work hard and prepare for life after school. She models creating inclusionary communities when she coaches teachers and leaders and as an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to be a part of growing into the next version of what we need for kids. She is also a contributing author of Because of a Teacher by George Couros and has presented at national conferences on Digital Portfolios, Creating a Culture of Coaching, Leading through and Equity Lens, Support for ALL learners, and many other topics. She is presenting at the Deeper Learning 2024 conference in San Diego with Brian Delgado, from High Tech High, on how to create a system of sustainable, student-centered learning in schools.

Working with Community Partners for student success – Recap & Notes

How can organizations and educators effectively collaborate for greater student success?

Our December Collab Lab conversations explored the benefits, needs and hurdles of collaboration on student learning experiences. One of the major hurdles for teachers to be able to create truly engaging real world experiences with students is the challenge of involving the appropriate outside expertise at the appropriate time in a student’s project. And if the student is encouraged to determine when that additional expertise would be helpful, things get even more messy. But since we all recognize the value of bringing in that outside perspective, what are some (proven) approaches that teachers could adopt as they venture in the world of student driven learning experiences?

Our December 2021 Collab Lab  (what’s a Collab Lab?) provided an opportunity to explore how we might leverage outside resources and begin establishing relationships to shift the use of ‘mentors’ from a 30 minute ‘song and dance’ to a meaningful semester long mentor relationship that draws out the best in each student?

After taking some time to to explore the participant’s own experience with collaboration, either as an educator or as a community partner, we asked the starting question to some great conversations: How can we create the circumstance for effective collaboration amongst teachers and (supportive individuals at) community organizations?

Common themes highlighted by all groups were:

  1. Communication, including feedback, is a major factor in successful collaboration when it comes to blending learning inside and outside the classroom;
  2. Commitment to the relationship and a plan for ongoing involvement;
  3. Flexibility of participation on a week by week basis (‘school’ is a messy workplace);
  4. Clarity around who is available as a partner and what kind of input and commitment is offered;

Nothing too stunning, and in fact these are core aspects of any successful and sustaining collaboration in the business world and public-private partnerships. What is unique is that these conversations provided an opportunity for educators and community members in non-profit and corporate settings to hear from each other what makes (common) sense to pursue if we are serious about working together for the greater benefit of the students in Milwaukee. What makes this more challenging? The complex environment we’ve created that we call ‘school’.

This list is not claiming to be complete, but it does provide several worthwhile entry points for further exploration if we want to come together in an (STEM) ecosystem to gradually implement the type of learning that we know 21st century students need exposure to if we want to develop the talent our communities are in desperate need of. A great starting point for further exploration of ‘what’s possible’! 


Interested in this type of conversation and being part of creating the shift in education we need?

Join our Collaborative Learning Community ‘inspirEd‘ and become part of creating the future of education.


What should effective partnerships offer teacher, students and partners? 

Here is what the attendees uncovered:

Teachers Partners Students
setting expectations of what’s possible setting expectations of what’s possible continuous learning made possible
involving partners enriches the curriculum enables partner to better meet funder standards getting out of the classroom in a meaningful way
It addresses the need for funds for activities (and PD) offer culturally responsive practices

opportunity for hands on activities, leading to exposure to careers

having a list of partners to pull from exposure for educators and students stimulating creativity and curiosity
Receive feedback from partner receive feedback from educators active engagement in the learning: “I wonder….?”
continuity & longitudinal experiences flexibility to work with school/grade needs

accountability to learning outcomes

sustaining relationships through transitions plan of action for building ongoing relationships more than one-time experiences
willingness to try Connect with the greater community – schools, families open-ended-ness of learning and exploring
pre-planning events open, collaborative communication engagement with people and community
ideas for what to include in teaching through learning experiences who are the partners and when are they available? opportunity to explore the Why?
community involvement in learning experiences clear idea of the goal of partnering with teachers STEM and business careers exposure
sharing experience with ‘being involved’ sharing experience with ‘being involved’ sharing experience with ‘being involved’
exposure to work, careers, etc. exposure needs and challenge of teaching exposure to mentors, work and concepts
  meaningful volunteer opportunities builds hope and ability to dream about their place in the community
  hearing from others what an organization might do for the community  
  talent recruiting  


What is needed to develop an effective collaboration for student success?

There are a lot of good intentions among those early to recognize that collaboration with teachers in real world focused student projects present great benefit and opportunity. But how do we practically get to a place where we can start realizing those benefits?

The attendees have the following suggestions:

Teacher Partner Student
access to partners access to teachers Access to mentors ‘from the real world’
budget available budget for interaction at middle/high school level learning takes time
curriculum alignment available time to volunteer training 
available time to devote experience with mentoring (middle school) students set behavior goals (accountability)
Training (pbl, technology, management) individual commitment to engage for the duration of a student project how to drive their full engagement
management support  administration/upper management support and involvement commitment to learn
transportation and other logistical resources time  co-teaching
commitment to support  alignment to learning standards alignment to learning standards
motivation a coordinators cross curricular / interdisciplinary activities
energy growth mindset growth mindset
set of goals for collaboration patience class visits
a list of ‘what’s possible’    
willingness to take risks    
growth mindset    


What gets in the way of successful collaboration ?

We all can imagine the sorts of things that get in the way of teachers doing their best teaching and community partners staying committed over time. What stood out for me was 

A lack of advocating for the benefits of hands-on learning experiences through stories of student success, both in the school context and in the community partner organization.


Here is the list our conversation participants developed

Teacher Partner Student
understanding of different learning styles understand (student) learning styles learning styles
experience with different teaching strategies funding in support of real world learning and your employee participation in it available time (none!)
funding do you have an overall engagement strategy motivation to learn
time how much time can you afford to dedicate? learning to get and receive feedback
understanding the audience understanding your audience (teachers) and their familiarity level with modern business language/disability
getting feedback giving and getting feedback about what works background knowledge
limited network / contact list matchmaking of relevant expertise need of deeper processing (time to process and follow through)
awareness of available resources and opportunities logistics Reflection
miscommunication miscommunication hierarchy of needs
logistics lack of knowledge  relatability
Creating the stories of ‘why’ one-sided decision making  
unwilling to showcase opportunity willingness to make involvement mutually beneficial  
Professional Development (related to pbl/domain/tech) admin involvement  
expectations for students and partners corporate structure  
  restrictive funds  


Would you like to join these conversations with teachers and community partners?

Consider participating in upcoming Collab Labs. Every 2nd Thursday of the month during the school year. RSVP on our Collab Lab page

Not a member of inspirEd yet? Join the Collaborative Learning Community ‘inspirEd‘ and continue this and other conversations with your peers from across Milwaukee and beyond who are experimenting with and sharing what works for our students.



Thanks again to MSOE’s STEM Center for hosting Collab Labs this season and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Bev Bryant – Park Naturalist at Wehr Nature Center

Catrina Crane – Director of Workforce & Business Solutions, Menomenee Valley Partners

Elizabeth Taylor – Director of STEM, MSOE

Graciela Hernandez  – Senior Universal Banker with Summit Credit Union

Natalia Hernandez – Outreach Specialist, the Harbor District

2023-24 Collab Labs

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