Tag Archives: outreach

Halfway there

So it is officially halfway through the month of November!

That has meant 15 daily posts from me so far (scroll down to catch any you may have missed).

Lots of posts as well from my partners in crime (or at least in the craziness that is National Blog Posting Month): Surviving the SystemBmoreSchoolsEpiphany in Baltimore, & The Smallest Twine. Go check out their blogs and join in on Baltimore’s online education discussion!

Halfway through the month also means my moustache is halfway to its full magnificence and splendor.

Me, with a 14-day-old mustache

**Please donate to my moustache’s DonorsChoose page to help support Baltimore’s kids**

Hope everyone enjoys this ides of November, and good luck to you in your November endeavors!

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NAF PLC Seminar

Today I was away from my school and my students, attending a conference. It was held by the National Academy Foundation (NAF) at Baltimore’s NAF High School. So, pretty close as conferences go!

It was a first-time gathering attempting to create a sustainable professional learning community of educators from schools with NAF academies from the southern Northeastern United States. That is, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC. I met people from Philadelphia, PA, Elizabeth, NJ, and various counties across Maryland. Some were teachers, some were principals, some were academy directors, some were work-based learning coordinators, some were industry partners. The focus today was on work-based learning and internships.

Unlike some PD’s and conferences, I did take away a lot from today. I’m outlining it here, both to share with y’all and also to commit myself to following through on these items. Before Thanksgiving, I will:

  • Look into ACE
  • Look into Baltimore’s YouthWorks
  • Reach out to find an organizer and presenters for a January “Professional Development Day for Students” around soft skills (including interviewing, public speaking, time and project management, self-presentation)
  • Discuss with school leaders re-instituting “Wonderful Wednesdays” where students “Dress for Success” in professional business attire; look for donations of professional clothing to have some extras
  • Check out Lockheed Martin’s IT Apprentice program

Within the year, I will:

  • Create a student checklist of our tiered work-based learning program
  • Hold AOE Awards Ceremony, with partners invited
  • Look into starting a NSBE Junior chapter
  • Look into joining or starting a monthly webinar by industry partner(s) for students
  • Business cards for our academy’s teachers
  • Consider hosting a gathering of PLTW/AOE alumni and current students
  • Invite industry partner(s) for January or April PD Day for other academy teachers
  • Create a newsletter or news email that can be used for our academy, sent out to our school, to our industry partners, to the media, and to our community

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A few weeks ago we held our first Industry Partners Breakfast. We invited some engineers from industry and higher education whom we had worked closely with in the past. We also extended the invitation to acquaintances that we thought might be interested in becoming more involved. And we asked each partner to bring a “friend/colleague (from a different company) who might have an interest in working with students in a high school engineering program.”

The goal of the breakfast was to accomplish three things: recognize our partners for their prior support, increase the level of involvement of our current partners, and increase the numbers of new partners.

We had breakfast of bagels & cream cheese, fresh fruit, pastries, coffee, and juice. We showed a presentation about our program and our goals for this year that our partners could help with. We had a general discussion time where everyone introduced themselves and talked about their interests related to educational support. We gave everyone a Patterson High School mug, a PHS Project Lead the Way pencil, and a copy of our updated brochure (pdf) for our Academy of Engineering. And then we recognized, with a plaque and thanks, some of our strongest partners who have been part of our advisory board.

We put a ton of work into organizing the breakfast. It led to a couple of those twelve-hour days I’ve been mentioning. But it was a great success!

As I talked about here, I’ve been working this year more than ever on marketing the program, our academy, and our school. One of our mentor teachers, who helped with the breakfast, wrote up this press release (pdf) about the breakfast.

From here, we plan to reach out to our partners based on where they said they might be able to help us (we had a list of possible areas of support). Some will be coming to the school in less than two weeks to help us judge the annual STEM Competition. Some volunteered to sit on our advisory board and attend monthly meetings guiding the progress of Baltimore City Schools’ PLTW engineering programs. Others expressed a strong interest in mentoring our students; and we hope to set up a mentoring program with multiple levels (industry partners mentoring students, our seniors mentoring our incoming 9th and 10th graders).

A great breakfast, kicking off what we hope will shape up to be a great year!


Oh, and once again please check out my compatriots in Baltimore education blogging who are also participating in NaBloPoMo:

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Who Knows Where the Time Goes

Just about every teacher I know has been feeling overwhelmed recently. Come into work at 7:30 in the morning, leave at 7:30 at night with lots of tasks still not finished, laid out on the desk for the next day. The twelve hour days are killing us, but even more time than that is needed to accomplish all the things we are asked to do and/or need to do to be good teachers. Where does all the time go?

Last spring, I drew up a little concept map of what I do and how my time is spent. Bubbles are not proportional in size to time spent on them. But do notice that teaching, which should be the number one thing I do, is only one of many bubbles. [Click the picture to go to the full, zoomable map at bubbl.us.]

I realize I left some of you in suspense over the summer with regard to my teaching assignment. I did not find out what I would be teaching until returning in August, of course, so I was in suspense for part of the time too! I am still teaching both math and engineering (yay!). Though the issues discussed in that earlier post have not really been resolved, just postponed a year. Also, this fall I was asked to coordinate my school’s Academy of Engineering efforts, so those bubbles above have become more prominent in terms of where my time is going.

As a turnaround school with declining enrollment, the recruitment and marketing piece of things has also become a more vital piece of what I and others at my school are doing. We’re creating brochures, flyers, and postcards; we’re updating our website; we’re tweeting; we’re issuing press releases to try to get the word out about the great things happening at our school; we’re working to get our partners and community more involved; we’re hosting recruitment fairs and open houses; and more that I’m forgetting at the moment.

Unfortunately, all of that takes time. That’s why I and many others are still in the school building after dark every day. And that’s where my time goes.

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At the Fair

Today was the School Choice Fair! 5th and 8th graders, along with their families, made the trek to Poly High School to learn about all the different high school and middle school options that Baltimore City Public Schools has to offer.

My school, Patterson High School, was there in full force. Our principal, academy principals, department heads, career and technology education (CTE) teachers , and students showed up to recruit new students to our school. One of our engineering students arrived at the Poly auditorium at 8:00 this morning, before any teachers or administrators! [The fair started at 9:00.] He helped set up and stayed all day promoting the school and our engineering program.

Our design technology teacher had created a booth/display with space for pictures, flyers, and a rear-projected screen. All the CTE programs and pathways had sent photos that had been compiled into a slideshow that would be projected onto that screen. Unfortunately, there were no electrical outlets available into which to plug the projector! Quite low-tech for a school named Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Our booth at the school choice fair

Our booth at the school choice fair

Luckily, many programs at Patterson had sent along brochures, large photos, posters, and display boards (the tri-fold type that reminds me of science fairs). Additionally: our EMT program had a CPR dummy and stretcher; our nail technology program had mannequin hands; and for our engineering program we brought robots, a bridge, a CNC-milled jewelry box, a bottle car, and a circuit board — all created by students.

I had a good time talking with parents and students about our school, its four career-themed academies, and our PLTW engineering pathway in particular. I encouraged interested kids to solve arithmetic problems that would move a calculator robot forward (or, if you get the question wrong, backward). I showed off our various props. And I advertised the other academies and CTE programs too, since Patterson has many great pathways to offer.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, we get to sell our programs on a smaller scale, to our school’s ninth graders, at the CTE Expo. At the end of their ninth grade year, students at our school apply to the CTE pathway(s) of their choice. We are putting on this expo to showcase the various pathway options and recruit students. Wednesday is also our school’s open house (from 9:00-3:00), where middle schoolers and their parents are invited in to visit during the school day and shadow students in their classes.  So today was just the start to a whole week of school and CTE choice!


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Catapult Battleship, or Adults Like Having Fun Too!

Our school is working toward becoming an Academy of Engineering site, for which reason four of us from that academy attended the National Academy Foundation (NAF) Conference. The best session at the NAF conference that I attended was one on integrated interdisciplinary units that bring together both the PLTW Principles of Engineering (POE) course and other core academic subjects, put on by Pier Sun Ho of ConnectEd.

Half of what intrigued me was how to connect the POE curriculum to other subjects. For example, at the time the POE teacher was teaching about ballistic motion, the algebra or geometry teacher could be teaching about quadratics or trigonometry; the history teacher could be discussing World War II bombing of London and Dresden; the English teacher could be teaching argumentative skills needed in a debate; and the physics teacher could be teaching about trajectories. Not that all these subjects line up the same year in Maryland, but just the idea of weaving together so tight a connection among subjects was exciting! The ConnectEd folks even have provided a curriculum that tie these subjects together, available to all NAF schools via the password-protected myNAF website.

The other half of what made that session the most interesting is that we (teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and business partners alike) got to work as a team to build catapults, then compete against each other in a game of “You Sunk My Battleship.”

A team's catapult, mounted on a 3' x 1' board

A team's catapult, mounted on a 3' x 1' board

Details are as follows: Each team was given 15 notched popsicle (craft) sticks, glue, masking tape, 2 binder clips, 4 rubber bands, and a protractor, along with a 2″ square of cardboard with which to build a cup to hold the ping-pong ball. Then, after 20 minutes of design/building time, teams competed against each other by mounting their catapults in a fixed position to 3 ft by 1ft pieces of cardboard (their ‘ships’). The teams lined their ships up along the carpet (or tiled floor), then proceeded to do battle. On each turn, a team could move three spaces in one direction, rotate 90 degrees, and/or fire the catapult, in any order.

You Sunk My Battleship

You Sunk My Battleship

Besides learning how to better collaborate with other subject teachers while I teach the POE course, I also realized during this session that even adults enjoy having fun and hands-on activities too! Similarly, one of the best parts of a conference I attended over a year ago in Atlanta was when teams of us got to build a toothpick-and-jelly-bean tower, with the goal of using the fewest toothpicks to successfully build a tower of four stories that could support the weight of a baseball for at least thirty seconds. Related to this idea, to help improve my classes I have worked at including more short mini-projects in POE, to complement and motivate the PLTW curriculum, as well as helping run the annual STEM Competitions.

But perhaps we could use this idea for adults too? Adults in the education field have enjoyed the toothpick tower and catapult at professional development sessions. In the past years, we in the engineering department have held a parent/family orientation session to let families know what the PLTW engineering pathway is, and what their child will be involved in over the nest several years. Perhaps we can expand that orientation session to include a hands-on engineering mini-project, so that families can experience a bit of the engineering design process that their kids learn about. If they are like us, they will not only learn about the engineering pathway but also have a lot of fun!


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