Chicagoland: science, STEAM, and sheer awe

The following was published on the BAM radio network and on the AASA website:

In late July, I had the opportunity to participate in the AASA digital consortium summer meet up. The consortium visited two superb districts (Leyden High School District 212 and Deerfield Public School District 109) as well as one Titan in its own class (the Chicago office of Google).

 

The symposium started with an overview of the Leyden school district. A diverse, blue collar town, Leyden has a little bit of everything to offer. What was most impressive was the fact that Leyden truly understood the necessity to prepare young adults to be adults in the workforce.  Not that they weren’t preparing for college prep too, but it’s always fantastic to see what schools are doing for the student going into the workforce. 

Tours like this always start with “the nickel tour” (tour of the building),  which was immaculate. The building itself was over 70 years old, but you would never think it. I later found out that the entire maintenance team are non-outsourced employees, which we all know leads to high quality work and investment in work. When I say immaculate, I could have eaten my lunch off of the floor.


We then saw two specific programs that were essentially turnkeying students for the workforce. One program focused on CNC machinery (tool & dye) and the other was computer repair. You may think CNC machinery as odd, but there is a large CNC plant in town, and the district collaborates with the plant in creating and maintaining the program. The epitome of win-win.


The computer repair program was a variety of mini-stations: a student-lead technology help desk, a chromebook repair station, and a coding station. All stations were oversaw by a teacher, but all work was being completed by students. From diagnosing computer problems to 3D printing parts for said computer problems, it was a well-oiled machine. 

The next day was spent at Google’s Chicago office, where Superintendents from around the country gathered to brainstorm and work through problems. This was all done in one of many conference rooms that Google has. And yes, before you even think about it, he offices were amazing. Part IKEA, part arcade, part diner, and part cubicle, the offices were amazing. All of the things about the Google office that I heard were correct, including:

  • Funky furniture
  • A manicure/pedicure and massage office
  • Fully stocked kitchens on every floor
  • Nap pods
  • Ping pong
  • Some of the most creative minds I will ever come across.

The third day was focusing on another Chicago suburb school district, Deerfield. The district, the almost polar opposite of Leyden, is a K-8 district focusing on preparing students for college prep classes in high school. Most impressive was the newly built science wing, which took three years to build after scads of tinkering to perfection. To be honest, words can’t really begin to describe the detail and quality of these science rooms. The pictures below speak for themselves. Every single aspect of the room was focused on; no stone was left unturned. Highlights of the wing include:

  • Floors that had scientific Equations embedded in them, as well as state of the art seating

  • Monitors all around the room are are connected to one camera in front of the teachers station, so the teacher can model as students partake in labs

  • Rain collection stations for fully functioning aquaponic workstations, along with camera equipped bird houses
  • A hallway designed with RGBOYV for studying purposes, along with monitors that are reporting outdoor temperatures and scientific data

The tour also included a new STEAM lab and was loaded with students talking about their daily experiences. 

In all, three amazing days this summer. Superintendents need to see this – it shows all of us that work needs to be done in our home districts, and also shows us that all of the dreams and thoughts that run through our head everyday are indeed fully capable of becoming student reality.


I’m looking forward to the next collaborative venture. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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