The First Step to 21st Century Education

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I’ve had a a fantastic week at the beach with my friends on the lovely island of Sanibel. Even despite the tropical storm that came in, we had a lot of fun on the beach, in the pool, biking around, playing games, reading, and just hanging out and talking together.

I was reading Future Wise over this vacation and thus thinking more about the future of education– yes, even while on vacation these are the things I think about, I know I’m weird that way. I have realized that even though it is summer I find myself constantly thinking about school. I find myself not always being “productive” over the summer which is odd to me because I typically am very consumed with school work, self selected work, meetings, clubs, theater, acro, band, etc. What I’ve noticed is that I am very fond of school.

This isn’t really surprising to me because I’ve always rather enjoyed school. When I was younger I would say I love school without a second of hesitation. However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself more annoyed with school and always waiting for the next holiday break or even just the weekend during the school year. So really I guess what I miss isn’t quite school, but really I miss the company of fellow learners working, discussing, and creating new ideas together; I don’t miss all of school as I use to back in elementary school.

This made me wonder: “Why is it that as I’ve gotten older I’ve become less fond of school is so many ways?” My hypothesis is that I don’t like school as much as I use to because school is no longer just about the fun and wonder of learning, but now it has become a stressful climb for “success”- however we might define that.

Thinking like the designer I believe myself to be, I decided to test my hypothesis about how stressful school is to older students.

I send a text to 13 students currently in high school and 2 in college from a total of 7 different schools across 3 different states asking this question: “What are specific examples of things that make you stressed, and why do you think they make you stressed?” Then I waited to see if their answer would have something to do with school, even though I specifically did not ask, “What makes you stressed at school?”

I did not provide any explanation as to why I was asking the question until after they had answered, if they asked, because I did not want to influence their answers in any way. Though in honesty, I did not get responses from everyone (it is summer after all and people are concerned with other things as expected though I only missed a few), the results to my small test were overwhelmingly inline with my hypothesis.

Most students responded with something having to do with school being the cause of their stress. The results varied between stress when teachers all assign big things due on the same day causing students to loose sleep, and when core classes and extra curricular events battle for time priority, and having pressure intentionally or unintentionally placed on them to get certain grades, and a myriad of answers about the struggles of figuring out where to go to college (these responses in particular often had many layers to them with everything from researching, to financial problems, to parental influence, to feeling confused, to fears about the general future of their existence riding on this one major decision- you get the idea).

Now I will say that there were other things that came up in my conversations about stress. Not everyone mentioned school at first at least, but as soon as I explained my hypothesis about school stress, 100% of those students acknowledged that school stress is a major problem and gave ample examples to support the claim.

I know this was a small little test with not the most scientific report, but I’m confident that if I was to expand my pool of users, I would find that a majority of upper level students get overwhelmingly stressed about school.

This is a problem.

Why do we let stress overwhelm school students? How can we expect students to become life long learners when they associate learning, which is most closely associated with school, to their primary source of stress? How might we make learning fun again?

One of my good friends from Nerd Camp whom I asked this question to, discussed for a while with me about how much we both love learning and yet how school has taken away from that love a little more every year. When I asked her why she thinks that is she gave a response that I believe to be sadly accurate:

“Learning isn’t really encouraged in school, success is.”

However, as another one of my Nerd Camp friends pointed out,

“And a lot of the time you can succeed in school without learning anything.”

As we have grown older school has become about getting good grades, so we can get into a good college, so we can get a good job, so we can have a good life; the idea of going to school because we love to learn and explore and wonder and just have fun being curious has been lost.

I know that these feelings and goals are not in any school’s motto, learning plan, or mission statement, but if this is what students’ are feeling then does it really matter what’s written on paper or proclaimed to audiences?

In my opinion, any school’s true goal is to create life long learners by preparing them with “lifeworthy” and “lifeready” knowledge, skills, and wisdom. But what distinguishes a lifelong learner from just another student at a school, is that a lifelong learner continues to seek out new knowledge and skills and wisdom even after primary education is complete, because lifelong learners find unwavering joy in learning. 

Stress can easily shatter joy; if we wish to guide students to find joy in learning, then we must find ways to eliminate some of the stress found in school- no matter the school you attend. That is the first step that needs to be taken on the path to 21st century education.

 

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ID and the d.School

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It’s been a busy few weeks.  Since I last posted I’ve been working at the Stanford d.School, wondering the city of San Francisco, at a Disney hotel, exploring Universal, sick in bed, discovering new facts at interactive museums, catching up on reading, and in general having fun with family and friends relaxing and trying not to worry about school. I’ve dropped the ball on blogging for various reasons, but that is irrelevant right now because inspiration hit me and I’ve finally reached a point where I simply must write.

While in San Fran (though really I was in Palo Alto most of the time…) I did write some posts, but due to internet issues at the time they never made there way online yet.

Rather than multiple posts I shall put the summaries here of our work on the design challenge “HMW establish friendships and build community at Stanford?”


San Fran Day 1

CcWIqrQWIAAwCux.jpgToday was our first day in San Francisco and I’m so excited to be back here again! The city is so much fun! All the bright colors, interesting street people, and pretty scenery just makes me so happy.

Today was our “chill day “ since we only just got into the city and everyone is still adjusting to the time difference. We did a lot of exploring today. We started out just doing a lot of walking to our hotel and then to the pier to visit the Exploritorium. We came to this same interactive museum last year as well and it’s really cool to get to play with all of the science, math, and psychology interactive exhibits.
CcU_AhQUUAAse33.jpg(Small tangent, this place also has one of the biggest Pi Day celebrations in the country at least, and there is free admission and a bunch of pi activities to do. One year I would love to be in San Fran for Pi Day just to see this supposedly epic event. This year is actually the 28th time they are celebrating apparently.)

One thing at the museum that I didn’t notice last year is that they have a moving sign up front that is constantly changing what it says. At one point in time, it read, “You can’t fail a museum.” I really liked this because it showed how the Exploritorium is really meant to be a place to wander and wonder and simple have fun learning about new things. There is no number or letter attached to anything. TherCcVjr92UUAAmzLY.jpge is no sense of “failure” because no matter what you do at a station, you will either learn what works or 10,000 ways that don’t (just like Thomas Jefferson inventing the lightbulb.)

 I wonder what schools could learn from the design of the Exploritorium. I know we need to have some form of feedback at school, which is not present at the Exploritorium, but what if we had a section of school that was more like a museum with various interactive exhibits set up. A place where you could wander in everyday and learn something new. Learning without the stress of grades is great.


San Fran Day 2

IDEO and d.School all in one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Today was fantastic so many great ideas in such a short amount of time! CcZkU3SXIAEP3TT.jpg

We talked about everything from a bathroom note board, to a hackathon bike race, to how to build trust between high schoolers and college reps.

I think what I enjoyed most about today was giving feedback to grad students on their prototypes for trying to figure out how to relieve stress from students trying to go to college.

It’s cool to see ideas that other people have about education transformation and I was making sure to take notes on ideas that connect to ours.

I’ve noticed that most ID members have gotten a lot more comfortable with giving feedback which was very evident today. Everyone was “in the zone” so to say; we seemed comfortable and confident with what we were talking about and how we were explaining our thoughts.

It seems like we gave valuable feedback, but I wish we could have gotten to hear their team’s meeting about what they thought after our feedback. I would like to know if our feedback was actually valuable to them rather than just basing it off of our own observations.

CclIt1oWwAEADMZ.jpgWe also did some quick interviews with people today around campus. That was particularly interesting because we don’t often get to experience what it’s like to go out into the “real world” and just ask strangers questions to try to empathize better with our users. Usually it’s someone we know that we’ve been emailing with for a while and then finally get one 30 minute conversation with. There was no real planning on our part with these interviews though (the facilitators at the d.School had talked with the dorm leaders who had talked to the student, but we personally had not connected with any of the students before). We talked less and did more and it was fun, informative, and got us moving further faster I think.

Overall day 2 was fantastic!


San Fran Day 3

Wow today was a full day.

We were talking with college students, doing fun team building dances, unpacking interviews and working a lot on trying to find insights.

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We saw David Kelley!

It was tiring.

While there is a lot I could talk about tonight, what I’d like to dive in on is how I realized how important it is to have breaks in our day.

When we’re always working non-stop, then it can be hard to really process everything, and your energy level slowly dies down. We’ve had some long days this week so far, and while I’ve appreciated the amount of time we’ve had to work, I wonder if we will have more moments this week where we break out from working. Times to just do weird fun stuff as a team.

We did a dance exercise today, which I can only describe as a leadership exercise that forced us to be goofy and follow each other anyway. We were working with our teams and changing up who was the leader to lead our team in dance moves. This was so much fun and I think we got to know our mini teams better, but I hope we get to have similar experiences with all of the ID family. I think every group can always grow with their understanding and comfort level with each other.


Now I didn’t keep up with blogging after day 3, so I’ll just do a quick recap of my overall thoughts.

To be completely honest (as I like to be), I had many points of frustration. I think this is natural, I’d be lying to say that everything was good and dandy 100% of the time with anything I do. I think the hardest part was being in a place where not everyone sees the same potential in a group of high schoolers as our facilitators and teachers at MVPS do. We are given so much respect at MVPS that it’s hard to leave that environment and remember that not all of the rest of the world thinks of high schoolers as active and involved members of a community. This struggle personally came up for me a few times along with the normal working on a team struggles.

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Paper plate awards for everyone! (I got the “mathlete” award cus I was memorizing pi all week, but also playing some intense ultimate frisbee; which I learned at nerd camp!) 

However, these were all minor things compared to the over all experience and everything we gained from it.

The theme of the week was “fail forward” which reminded me of a MVPS phrase we like to say, “fail up”; they essentially mean the same thing, which is a reminder that you have to learn from failures, in order to achieve success. So don’t shut down when you fail, instead lean in and like a clown at a circus, even when you fall you get up and say “ta-da!” I thought it was really neat to hear someone else talk about a mindset that we also have as a norm when doing work.

Some other big take aways were how we learned a lot of new helpful tools and coaching prompts for going through the design process. Another big success was that a lot of ID members seemed to take on new roles while we were at Stanford, and really come out of their comfort zones in positive ways; several people also had “aha” moments where they maybe understood a part of the design process better than they once did. I also think a huge take away was just the number of great ideas generated while we were there. I hope some of these ideas will maybe be adapted a little and implemented at MVPS.

I could tell that all of these take aways helped bring our ID family closer together, and I

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We got official d.School pins as well as our own awesome mustaches as inspired by David Kelley. 

hope to see some of these take aways help inspire our work as we continue this year and beyond.

What’s really blowing my mind still is that we had this opportunity. Ya we are a bunch of high schoolers, but we are a bunch of high schoolers that just spent a week with Stanford students thinking up big ideas to problems that are affecting real people. Too bad this wasn’t school all of the time.

No One Likes Stress and Anxiety

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It makes me disheartened with education when I see people physically upset (crying actually) due to stress about the end of the year. I truly don’t understand why we make the end of the year so full of stress and anxiety right before the holidays too. No one wants stress and anxiety. Teachers don’t want it, students don’t want it, parents and families don’t want it. Why is it still here?

(This reminds me of my recent post about the SAT.) What if there was a fun  way to end the year that still gave students the opportunity to showcase their learning over the course of the semester?

Like what if the year ended in some big puzzle challenge where you were in small groups, or even a class, and you had to use what you’ve learned over the semester in order to find the answer? Similar to at nerd camp last year when we took 3 hours to break a code as a class and then solve the riddle once decoded. It ended up testing most of what we had learned thus far about cryptology and helped us grow as a team. It tested our collaboration and communication skills as well as the problem solving and creative thinking skills; plus it made us think more about how they used codes in WWII which lead to really interesting conversations. This experience was tons of fun (it’s actually one of my favorite challenges that I’ve ever taken on) and yet it was really challenging and a great test of our knowledge too!

Stories Come From the Heart

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My head is spinning right now. Today was a pretty good day, nothing particularly amazing happened, but it was pretty relaxed with a couple of great conversations. These great conversations have all connected for me in the great circle of life, so yes, this post is long, but that is because there is simply lots that I must say.

For starters, today Kat and I unpacked our interview that we had with Grant Lichtman yesterday, and the amount of ideas currently in my head our insane!

For the past year-ish (actually looking back at blog posts has allowed me to learn it was actually the beginning of November 2014 that we officially announced our coVenture), Kat and I have been interested in education redesign and student voice. But we’ve come a long way since first making our twitter accounts on the very day of that particular blog post.

Since last year, we have had a number of opportunities to lead design thinking challenges; Kat went to Europe with EF Tours and lead a design thinking session; I gave a MoVe talk at the DT conference FUSE15; we have written a collective of over 365 blog posts; we have a total of over 200 followers on twitter and actively have conversations with education leaders (teachers and some student groups) from around the world; we have created the first ever (to our knowledge) student designed AP class.

Point being: We’ve been wedging our way into education redesign conversations, and now I’d say we are starting to have a decent presence and heard voice in the conversations. Plus being students gives us a unique perspective compared to many educators in these conversations, which definitely helps us stand out a little.

Through all of the discovery and empathy work we’ve been doing over the past year, Kat and I have really started to develop a lot of thoughts around education redesign. For the past few months, especially since the creation of our AP Lang course, we’ve been thinking about actually putting our thoughts into a book to publish. Imagine a book written about education design from students’ perspectives! That would be something different, and hopefully game changing!

During our interview with Mr. Lichtman we really wanted to focus on questions related to the writing process and the journey he went on to create his 2 books (The Falconer and #EdJourney). His support and enthusiasm with our idea was motivating, and his insight invaluable!

Today while unpacking, Kat and I tried to focus on these essential questions that Mr. Lichtman asked us:

  • What are you writing?
  • Why are you writing it?
  • Who are you writing it for?
  • What else is already out there that may be like it?
  • Why should you be the ones writing it?

These questions may sound almost obvious to ask when trying to write something, but sometimes questions become more powerful and helpful when someone else asks you them.

When I say Kat and I focused on these questions, I mean we actually tried to start brainstorming some answers, but obviously we are still vary early in this process. The important thing is: we are in this process.

Our talk today clarified some of our thoughts, and we know we want to do this because we have things we need to say and we have things we want to learn more about to help others find their way on this journey to education redesign. Design thinking is human centered problem solving. In human centered problem solving we work with users to solve the problems. In schools the largest population of users is the student population. Therefore, it only makes sense that student voices are involved in the education redesign process.

It is due to my extremely strong belief in this that my personal how might we that drives my learning and actions at this point in my life is, “How might we make student voice at the forefront of education redesign?”

I’ve only recently been able to even clearly identify what my how might we is, part of what helped was when Alex Emmanuele asked me during an interview, “What’s your how might we?” Again, a seemingly simple question, but when you’re forced to answer publicly to someone else,  it slowly becomes more articulate and takes more shape than before.

The cool thing is that since articulating my HMW, I’ve slowly been seeing it take root even more in my everyday activities and school work. Having conversations with educators around the world to learn and be inspired, discussing how our writing can be meaningful to discussions outside of school, trying to uncover big questions like “what makes a good student?” and planning to interview with 50 stand out students to develop an answer- this stuff is exactly what I want to be working on.

I see my iVenture seeping into the work I’m doing in AP Lang class in a way that makes complete sense and motivates me to learn and work like no other class does. Plus I feel confident that we are also meeting the goals of what students are suppose to take away from an AP Lang class. Mr. Lichtman even said at one point, “You guys have the capacity to really synthesize and find new insights,” when talking about how he thinks us writing a book is an achievable goal. Well, a synthesis essay is one of the essays we have to write for AP Lang, and we just got feedback from an author that we know how to synthesis; that was pretty powerful feedback for us.

Writing a book is no small task. It takes months of constant writing and editing. Mr. Lichtman talked about how he probably wrote over 150,000 words even though #EdJourney only ended up being 90,000 and the target was 40,000. One of the biggest questions we are wrestling with is “how can high schoolers write a book while still keeping up with high school work?” Is it possible? We don’t know. Will we try despite the uncertainty and assumed constraints? Don’t doubt it for a second. How will we do it? Stay tuned as we continue on our journey to find out.

Through out the conversation the biggest piece of advise we got from Mr. Lichtman was, “Know what you want to say. Then continue to ask yourself ‘Is this exactly what I want to say?” We haven’t clearly defined what it is “we want to say” quite yet, but the thoughts are developing. For me the important thing is that I know I’m all in, because I feel that this is where my heart is, and stories come from the heart.

In fact this conversation we had today has made me deeply ponder about where my heart is calling me.

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been decently well known as “the math girl.” I mean even my nickname is “Pi-nya” because I sign my name with a pi symbol instead of an A. I’ve gone to Nerd Camp the past 4 years and taken advanced, college level math courses and absolutely loved them!

Due to my love of math and love of design thinking, I’ve been saying for the past year that I want to major in engineering because that seemed logical enough. I mean from what I’ve heard, engineering seems to be the major that most obviously relates to design thinking principles.

Related to engineering, in innovation diploma time I’ve been working on a product design coVenture focusing on “How might we make sustainability a part of the DNA at MVPS?” I’ve expressed before how I am not super attached to this coVenture; however, I feel like I’m missing experiences in my design thinking tool box that come with finishing a project all the way through.Thus I’ve felt the need to carry this out all the way, and I feel a certain dedication to my team as well to do so.

The thing is, the more we work, the more I’m starting to realize my strengths and weaknesses as a designer. I am not the best at using CAD programs. In fact I’m only okay at best. Also, electronic knowledge goes right over my head most of the time. I’ve also found, that I think I (like many classroom attempts at design thinking) have a problem with spending too much time in discovery mode before leaping into empathy and experimentation mode.

However, there are other things I am good at, like speaking up for a team. I think at this point most of ID knows that giving pitches is definitely one of my strengths. (Being an actress really comes in handy in the real world!) Even just today I was being filmed in a short interview for an MViFi video that is being created, because articulating ideas is a strength of mine. I’m also typically that person to help keep everyone up to date on things that need to be done and checks to make sure we all have the same understanding of what’s going on.

Back in the beginning of last year when we took the Gallup Strength Finder test my 5 strengths were recognized as “learner, individualization, restorative, achiever, and responsibility.” It isn’t until this year though that I’m starting to realize that maybe I should be spending more time focusing on how I can use the strengths I have and improve those rather than trying so hard to get good at a bunch of different things. A team is made of multiple people with different strengths.

I’ve also been questioning if engineering is really the path I want to go down. I mean I know my heart is more into my iVenture/AP Lang work compared to my product design work. I don’t necessarily want to stop my product design work because I truly do think it’s valuable to see a project come to life in some shape or form and learn to wrestle with the real world problems of bringing an idea to life. However, is product design really what I want to be doing later in life? And my iVenture is definitely design thinking, but it isn’t really engineering in the traditional college major sense based on my understanding, so what does that mean?

I know I don’t need to decide at this very moment, but like Mr. Lichtman said, “you really have to know what you want to do.” In my opinion, you often are happier when doing what you want, or at least doing something you know will help you get what you want in the long run. And I think you know what you want to do based on what your heart is telling you.

Currently, I know what I want to do, because my heart is calling me in the direction of my iVenture: “How might we make student voice at the forefront of education redesign?” But when thinking about my future, which as a junior comes up a lot, how does my iVenture fit in when thinking about college and my life after high school? I’m starting to think that engineering isn’t quite alined with my personal passions, but then what is? I’m feeling an odd mixture of being greatly lost and yet incredibly metacognitive and aware at the same time right now.

Positive Reminder

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“Things tend to kind of, maybe, sort of, work out sometimes.”

This is actually my own quote that I said to one of my friends at Nerd Camp this summer (the original Nerd Camp with Duke TIP appose to the other Nerd Camp I went to at Yale this summer) when she was getting stressed out about the last TIP dance. While the English itself isn’t all that great, the meaning behind the sentence has become very meaningful to me.

I know that there are a lot of words in there that make the quote seem not so certain, but I think that’s because of my value of honesty, so even when I first said it I was worried myself that things wouldn’t work out and thus I added room for caveats. Personally when something says “Things will always work out in the end,” or something that extent, it makes me a tad more annoyed because I then get the worry of “What if they don’t work out though?” With all of my little caveat words placed in the quote, it is really hard for me to argue easily with the sentence and thus it is easier for me to believe in and get hopeful– it’s really all just phycological though… Also this quote means more to me simply because it reminds me of TIP which always makes me happy and sad at the same time.

The dance ended up going great in the end, so as the quote predicted, things worked out. Since then, any time I’ve been stressed out about something and then things turned out right in the end, I’m reminded of this quote.

I’ve realized that at some point in my semi-recent life, I’ve started to get stressed, anxious, and nervous more easily. This made me think that perhaps rather than remembering my quote after something works out, it would be more helpful to be reminded of the quote while I’m stressed or anxious or nervous. This way I can hopefully feel better knowing that things happen for a reason and it will be ok in the end.

With all of this in mind, I have now decided to write this quote on a sticky note and place it on my mirror so that every morning I will be reminded. Some times we just need those daily reminders to think positive.

Debuting New Learning Adventures

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Well it has come; the last true night of summer before I must be concerned with getting up the next morning at an annoyingly early hour.

It seems like the summer has just flown by. Fuse15, then Nerd Camp1 at Duke East for TIP, then acro camp, then Capon, then New York, then Yale, then soccer, and now school.

I spent today at school for my siblings orientations even though mine isn’t until tomorrow. I even got to see the new Studio(i) on the Lower School which is a fantastic new makers space! During the middle school orientation I almost just started laughing because they mentioned student led conferences and my first thought was “I was just reading about those for our new AP Lang course!!!”

For our collab-course, Kat and I will not be taking a final exam in the spring, and instead we will be doing what is sometimes referred to as a passage. We will be presenting to a panel of mentors about why we think we deserve to pass from this class into our senior year. It’s a neat concept we read about that really requires students to understand what the purpose of a class was and show how they met the learning outcomes. My hope is that by demonstrating our work in this way we will also be more proud of our “final exam” then if we were to just study and then sit down for a long test probably consisting of lots of multiple choice questions.

In the same article (sorry I don’t have the original still because I copied it so I could annotate it) that talked about passages, it also talked about student led conferences. The purpose of the conferences is similar to the purpose of the passage in the sense that the goal is for students to take ownership of their learning and be able to clearly articulate what they’ve been doing and learning at school. Rather than just parents coming in to talk to their child’s teacher about the child’s behavior and participation at school, the student is also present and serves as the person informing the parents with the teacher their for help and guidance if needed. From what I’ve read, it seems like this way of having a conference would be much more powerful to the parents because they’re getting to see for themselves how their child is growing as a learner. Not to mention this conferences hold teachers to a new standard because they also have to help make sure their students are prepared to lead a conference. Over all I’m really excited for both passages and student led conferences to be making their debut at MVPS this year!

Speaking of AP Lang, the course is still a go!!!! I can’t wait to get this syllabus sent off to the college board as soon as we can so we can make edits if need be! I’m even excited to start our first book during Chapter 2: The Art of Innovation, which to me almost feels like us going back to the start of ID when Kat and I read “The Falconer” because now we are going to read Grant Lichtman’s second book “#EdJourney”! I’m super excited to read what he has to say in this second book and can’t wait to start discussing the topics that he brings up!

I keep thinking about AP Lang because I was working on my summer project for it. To take it straight from our handy dandy syllabus, this is what the task we created for ourselves is:

Over the summer students will be required to find and read at least 10 articles of their choice. (Videos and podcast are also acceptable.) The students will then take these 10 sources and create a Hero’s Journey story board poster by finding connections between the different topics. When they get back to school the students will have a discussion based on what they learned from the articles, the struggles that they faced with creating a story with them, and the ideas they got from thinking about the cross pollination of ideas. In addition these articles will serve as the first pieces of writing for students to dig into in terms of style and rhetorical strategies. 

One of the big goals we are trying to achieve with our course is to take advantage of the work we already do and want to be doing and to showcase this learning in a way that demonstrates how we are meeting school standards as well as enjoying ourselves. We wanted summer to be no exception, so rather than reading a set book, we thought we would take advantage of the fact that we would be reading lots of articles and add in the idea of The Hero’s Journey while thinking like a designer about it by building connections between stories. It all just blends together to make a nice kick off to our year in this course!

I’m just so pumped to really get this ball rolling, and since I co-made the course, I also know that the work isn’t even close to over yet.

It’s the last night of summer, but I feel like I’ve barely left school, and somehow that feels ok. I’ve been realizing more and more that I really enjoy going to school because at MVPS we have some pretty cool stuff going on that you can’t find in most places, and from talking with so many other students, I know they’re jealous and think it’s awesome stuff too. 🙂

Kindness, Advice, and Laughter

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Today in NSLC we spent the entire day in NYC!!! I love the city, but today felt super touristy for me to be honest, because a lot of people hadn’t been there before and just wanted to see Time Square which is exactly where you typically avoid…

But being with friends still made it a lot of fun! The best part though was actually caused because this one kid wanted chocolate milk.

We were in Bryant Park and he saw this coffee stand so he went up and asked for chocolate milk. The lady at the counter said, “We don’t have any,” so he said “Well that’s messed up I just want chocolate milk.” To this her response was, “Wait I’ll make you something.”

So she basically put chocolate ice cream in a latte and added almond milk I think and he came back to us and was “this is amazing!!!” Plus the lady even let him try it before making him pay for it which was really nice along with her already sounding pretty cool for creating this “thing” in place of chocolate milk.

A bunch of the other people with us (there were a total of 12 of us walking around in a group together during our free time in the city) ended up trying the drink and agreed that it was actually really good. So one our way to get pizza we all stopped at the coffee place so other people could buy “the thing”, and the coffee lady was talking to us and she was great!

For starters she was only charging them like half price for the drink which was really nice, but then she was also making conversation with us that was just really funny. She talked about college and  how we should go to NYU, and how she was impressed with how smart we all were. Then she started lecturing one of the guys because someone told her about how he flicked another guys nipple earlier in the term which lead to the quote of the day: “It’s ok to flick someone’s nipple, but you have to ask first. If they say yes, then flick to your hearts desire, but if they say no, then go find some one else’s nipple to flick! Cus one day you’re going to flick the wrong person’s nipple.” There was much more to the lecture and the original chocolate milk guy got about half of it on video while we were all cracking up! The guy even tried to walk away at one point and she was like, “No come back here and listen to all of this!”

She then ended her conversation with us by saying that she never wanted to see any of us on the news for doing anything other then getting awesome awards and recognition.

I don’t even know the name of this person or if she knows how much we enjoyed speaking with her, but she really made our day by spreading kindness, advice, and laughter. I think that may be one of my favorite parts about the NYC actually; how you can meet so many new people in one day and create so many interesting memories. You never know who you may meet, and if everyone strived to be like this lady, a person spreading kindness, advice, and laughter, then imagine how many people’s days would be made better.

Trusting Your Team Inspires a Team

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(This was actually my team and our design for the wind turbine competition.)

It’s amazing what you can get done when you work as a team. I’ve loved how my team (Team Team) has been bonding so well these past few days!

Tonight we even won the Minute to Win It challenge so now we’ve made an impressive lead for ourselves after winning several challenges now. 🙂

We actually had another challenge today as well where we were building wind turbines. However this challenge was a little different because rather than working with our TA groups we were paired randomly amongst all of the engineering kids. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy that very much. I love my TA group and we’re so close now and have bonded like family which has made us an even better team. However, these people I just met and there was no specific reason as to why we were together. I’m pretty sure actually that all of them were the same personality type which happens to be an owl which also happens to be the type that is most opposite to my major personality type. I mean yes people consist of a lot of different attributes so I in no way mean to label people purely that way, but I found it interesting how quickly I noticed similar characteristics amongst them and felt myself getting bothered by some traits. Without the balance of all different personalities though, it made it harder for our team to productively work and we ended up not doing so great in the competition.

Luckily 2 people from my TA group were on the winning team, and we had one person on the 2nd and 3rd place teams as well, so we still got a good amount of points during that challenge.

We also had a full 4 hours back to back of project development time which was really nice because we were able to make a ton of progress on our 2 major projects. Our team showed great collaboration skills again during this time with quickly splitting into groups to divide and concur tasks. I think one of the best parts about being at a nerd camp is how I think we all feel more trustworthy of each other to get their share of work done well than perhaps some of our actual class members at school. This trust really allows us to get a lot done because jobs can be assigned and everyone feels confident that they will get done in a timely fashion.

I’m so excited to see how things keep playing out for Team Team, and it’s sad to think it’s almost time to leave these awesome people!

Same Process New Way

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Today I was totally in my zone because we did a ton of brainstorming! Now that we know about all of the projects, today we started brainstorming ideas for our sea perch designs and our product pitch. However, the designs are top secret so I’m not going to reveal anything until things go public, but I will discuss the process.

It’s always kind of weird to brainstorm with a new group of people because everyone has slightly different methods that work best for them. Plus I feel like I do so much brainstorming with ID that I’ve gotten use to having a really some sort of plan and method to brainstorming typically with time limits, but the average person’s instinct is to just all kind of start thinking and talking with people. I discovered quickly that trying to be super organized wasn’t going to be how this team operated for now at least.

We ended up naturally splitting into two groups and deciding which group would work on the surface robot and which would work on the under water one. Then we brain stormed ideas with out groups by drawing on the chalkboard then expanding our groups a little. Then finally we talked to the other team about their design to give feedback and discussed how we would split up the limited materials we have. We went back and forth at this step a few times, but then my team finally felt confident to go a head and start working on building our design (which we had already confirmed with the other group on).

I must say that it bugged me some that we could get our materials until like 40 minutes in because it was hard to brainstorm ideas without being fully aware of what we had besides a list of objects without dimensions or descriptions. I also don’t know if our end design will really win in the innovative category because to me it seems rather simple, which you know may be okay if it ends up working the best. It made me wonder if we could have taken more time trying to think of innovative solutions rather than just starting with productive solutions. I wonder how what task you start with effects the end results.

Later in the night we were brainstorming product ideas (that could literally be any idea for a product). I’m use to starting with finding problems then getting sticky notes and brainstorming creative solutions. Here we were given free range to just think of any solution and I must say I found it harder to brainstorm good ideas while thinking this way. This time we were lead by our TA’s and had 45 minutes to come up with 100 ideas (which to be honest seemed long compared to some time limits I’ve been given, and yet we went over time to come up with a full 100). I also noticed we had a lot of ideas shut down which was odd. Most of the time they were shut down because the idea already existed, but I feel like that hasn’t stopped a brainstorm of mine in the past. It was just odd…

I mean I still had a lot of fun and we came up with some good ideas (but we don’t really decide until tomorrow), but it was just interesting to go through a familiar process a different way. I guess you just have to do whatever works best for the team, and today our team kicked butt during our Mission Impossible game and came in first place scoring the first 100 points for the engineering challenge this term!!! I think I love our team spirit and bond the most of anything because it makes being around each other really fun as well as productive because we listen to each other well.

Learning to Lead

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I’M AT YALE!!!!! I feel like Rory from Gilmore Girls right now since I’m just settling in after our kind of orientation day.

I’m pretty excited for these next 9 days because from what I’ve heard and read we are going to be learning a ton about leadership and engineering. In our “opening ceremony” tonight, one of the head guys talked about how you aren’t a leader just because you go to a leadership conference; in order to be a leader you have to actually apply the things you learn about at the conference when you go home.

I hope to learn lots of cool things here and teach them to people when I get home (or at least talk about the ideas some). Not a bunch has happened here yet but even with the limited time I’ve been here I know it’s going to be tons of fun here because the people are really welcoming and fun to be around so far.

Tomorrow we are going to a challenge course which I’m super excited for since those always are fun because it’s like rapid problem solving!!!

I have lead learning multiple times now, so now I’m excited to learn about leading in the days to come. (Plus with the added bonus of learning different engineering techniques.)