i2 Learning began with a 9 year old girl who liked to solve problems
School was fine, reading was fine, math was fine, but making something with her own hands was what she really liked, especially if it was something useful.
Recognizing the power of that sentiment a number of educators set out to create a program to provide those learning opportunities for middle school students throughout the world; and to reimagine how children should be educated in our changing world.
We collaborated with a number of the world’s leading STEM organizations
With curriculum partners that included MIT, The American Museum of Natural History and The Museum of Science in Boston, an initial program was started as a summer program, i2 Camp, in Boston, New York and New Jersey. Over 400 kids were exposed to hands-on, project-based learning in STEM courses such as Building an Interactive Friendly Monster, Crash Test Engineering, and Fun with DNA.
The success of the program was immediate and obvious to all who participated or observed. Parents regularly commented on how they had never seen their children so excited about learning. Teachers and outside evaluators from Teachers College, Columbia University and Harvard School of Education commented on how engaged the students were in the classroom. And kids themselves regularly wrote in feedback forms, “This is awesome” and “i2 Camp rocks!”
Building on this success, we developed partnerships with other STEM organizations such as Stanford, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Wyss Institute at Harvard, and the next summer i2 Camp program grew to run in 23 different locations across the US as well as in Amman, Jordan and Nairobi, Kenya.
And started partnering with schools and school districts to bring the program into the regular school year
In the interest of reaching more students of all abilities, economic means and interests, we partnered with schools and school districts to set up “STEM Week” in schools during the school year. During STEM Week, together we transformed classrooms into STEM learning labs where regularly scheduled classes were replaced by a hands-on STEM curriculum taught by the school’s own teachers. Over the five days, teachers and students worked in teams to solve real-world problems in a classroom where hands-on experimentation, critical thinking, and collaboration were encouraged and used as teaching techniques to engage and inspire students.
Once again the results exceeded our expectations. Many teachers told us that it was the best week of the school year, parents and administrators consistently commented on how engaged and positive the students were doing the week, and over 90 percent of the students themselves reported that they “liked” of “loved” the course.
Now we are extending the program from one week to one month, and then beyond the school day
Following our largest program, Boston STEM Week, which reached 6000 students and 300 teachers in 36 Boston schools during the week of October 3 -7, 2016, one bold principal asked us “for 40 weeks of the i2 program each year.” Inspired by that request we have now developed i2 Month, where 5 schools in Boston will run an expanded version of our Building a Lunar Colony course for the entire month of November 2017. Not losing the importance of other disciplines during this month, we have added the reading and writing of science fiction as well as space exploration in our curriculum, and a project for the students to form their own form of government once their colony is built.
In addition, inspired by numerous teachers who set up after school STEM programs after seeing the enthusiasm of their students in this kind of learning, we have partnered with the BOSE corporation to develop STEM Club, an after school program where students learn about the science of sound and then build their own speakers and musical instruments to form a team orchestra for a final inter-school competition and festival.
While it will take time to measure the long-term impact of these immersion programs, there have already been a number of successes. Teachers speak of seeing new ways of engaging and inspiring their students after working with them during STEM Week. Parents report that their children talk about new possibilities and even new careers after STEM Week. And independent evaluation of the program consistently showed “a statistically significant increase in interest in STEM and STEM-related fields after completing STEM Week.”
As for the girl who inspired the program, after four weeks of the summer program, she told her mother as she was being put to bed one night:
“When I grow up I want to go to MIT and become an engineer.”
A DIFFERENT SCHOOL DAY
A Different School Day
Use their heads & their hands, for more than 45 minutes at a time.
Today’s school day looks very much like an assembly line. Discreet tasks are done one 45 minute period at a time. Students go from one block to the next block to the next, often with little or no connection between blocks, and sit at a desk, listening, occasionally speaking and taking notes. i2 Learning breaks down these blocks by creating week-long courses where students spend five full days building, problem-solving and collaborating with their classmates on solving a series of interdisciplinary challenges. They use their heads, their hands, and their colleagues to make connections and succeed in an environment more like the one ahead of them.
COLLABORATE & CONNECT
Collaborate and Connect
We will not succeed alone.
Throughout the world one-person desks and cubicles are being replaced with pods and open spaces. Problems are being solved by teams not individuals. Traditional fields of study are no longer siloed but increasingly intersect. Today’s challenges require connections, interdisciplinary partnership and collaboration; all of which sit at the heart of i2 Learning. Our curriculum is filled with hands-on activities which can not be completed alone and require students to incorporate elements of all four STEM fields. The multiple connections we make with our curriculum partners, schools and educators enable us to try, test, retry and retest the latest developments in science and technology in a school setting.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison
Where would we be if we were too scared to fail? Innovation, creativity, and advancement are predicated on our ability to take risk, fail and try again. Meanwhile, in many of our schools, the cost of failure has never been higher. A failed test or assignment, even in the middle school years, is seen to impact a student’s capacity to get into a top college and then to a successful and happy career. Children are taught to get the “right” answer without trying and exploring other, perhaps better or even equally “right” options. The i2 Learning program encourages students to explore and experiment, to find those ways that will not work, and then get to their own “right” answer.