TREND Winter 2017/2018 - Page 30

continued from page 8 amalgamation of subject-areas. Unfortunately, if there were ever an opportunity for fear to rear its antagonizing head, it’s amidst this kind of change. But we had a purpose… The city of Mount Pleasant, TN and its schools were ripe for this new approach to education. Located on the proverbial outskirts, Mount Pleasant is the epitome of a city that has suffered under hard-times. While Mount Pleasant thrived for over 100 years during the Phosphate era, known as a rich mining town and a welcoming gateway to a nearby Nashville, by the early 1990s the city’s Phosphate was gone. As Phosphate went so did the city’s prospects, industry and jobs. A once flush city now suffered under a 25% unemployment rate and a growing methamphetamine crisis. The death of another American small town seemed inevitable. It was at this point the city’s leaders turned to education as a catalyst. Could the city’s schools leverage the power of a unique, forward-thinking education model believed to both inspire teachers and students as well as connect local industry to once stale curriculums? In 2016 that’s exactly what we did. Charged with resurrecting Mount Pleasant, TN by way of an inspired, PK- 12 unified STEAM model, educators began rebuilding the idea of school and, ultimately, its impact on the surrounding community. This rebuilding would center on embedding Arts into a STEM curriculum, creating holistic learning model where students think and do as creators not merely consumers of information. This combination of purpose, progressive curriculum and inspired pedagogy was the tremor of what would soon become the groundbreaking education paradigm – a unified STEAM campus. #TheMount So what does this STEAM campus really look like? What was so innovative that caused America Achieves and the Global Learning Network to invite Mount Pleasant and 29 other schools worldwide to convene in Boston, sharing World Leading education practices? What was so inspiring that the CLARK Legacy Foundation contributed a $500,000 innovation grant to support our efforts? I like to use the Music of Mechatronics example. Picture a high school freshman that loves playing in the band. This kid carries his horn around like a badge of honor. Now this freshman loves music but when he sees Mechatronics on his schedule, initially his heart sinks. Not hard to understand, as most musicians would shy away from the program’s Wikipedia description “a multidisciplinary field of science combining a varied array of engineering fields…” However, the Mechatronics instructor, operating under our vision of connecting students to their passions, sees an incredible opportunity to teach this freshman about a different kind of melody. The sweet humming of a 3D printer. Before long, the freshmen is 3D printing functioning, multicolored mouthpieces that leave his band mates both curious and impressed. This freshmen now loves band AND mechatronics. That’s the power of STEAM! There are countless examples like this but the results are the same. We’re taking a page out of the Mars generation’s playbook, combined with a bit of practical psychology, and helping students embrace their passions while simultaneously opening their minds to the reality of real world synergy. It’s education a la carte. We’ve recognized that under the one-size-fits-all, factory-line education model we’ve done more damage than good, so we’re leveraging the power of relationship-building and personal interests to foster both a new way of thinking and learning. It’s metacognition for the mobile-generation! And what’s cooler than 3D printed French horns is that we’re starting this process as early as three years old. Basically, we’re public school acting like the coolest start-up company since Snapchat. Only this isn’t Silicon Valley, we’re re-directing the course of education from the cozy confines of Mount Pleasant, TN. I use the start-up comparison because our teachers vertically plan – like 2nd graders working with 11th graders on the same Tiny House project – and our emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning transcends both grade- level and content-area. This allows for an overarching vision free from the compartmentalization of students by arbitrary birthdates. Furthermore, we don’t see education as a standalone product anymore. Our fingers are on the pulse of both the current and future economy and its respective workforce demand. That’s why we are