About

Our Story

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.

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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.

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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.”

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Our Approach

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.

EMBRACE FAILURE

Embrace Failure
“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.

Our Team

ETHAN BERMAN

Ethan founded and ran RiskMetrics Group from startup to NYSE publicly traded company until the company was sold in 2010. Ethan currently sits on two school boards and lives in New York with his three children and wife who has a PhD in Politics and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Before starting RiskMetrics Group, Ethan was a Managing Director at JPMorgan and is a graduate of Williams College.

VICKY VLANTIS

Vicky is a middle and upper school teacher with a Masters degree in Science Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Bachelors degree in Chemistry from New York University. In 2008 she helped develop Run It!, a non profit organization that works with elementary schools to teach young students about healthy eating and being active. Vicky has previously taught at M.S. 137, the Beacon and Chapin schools.

PHIL THORNTON

With the exception of a decade-long detour at IBM, Phil has worked in the independent school world, serving in a variety of capacities (Assistant Head, Development Director, Teacher, Coach) at three fine schools. He earned a Master of Arts from the Klingenstein Center, Columbia University and graduated as a Physics major from Amherst College. He is the proud father of two daughters who work for two of the leading Charter School organizations in the country.

KATIE CANNON

Katie received her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from CUNY Hunter College. The daughter of a passionate educator, she was raised with an intellectual curiosity about how and why we are who we are. This outlook has guided her in both her academic studies and her professional life. She has lived and studied on 3 continents, traveled to over 15 countries, and is inspired by the things in life that bring us all together- especially science and technology.

DAN BLONDELL

Before joining i2, Dan was the digital “voice of Central Park,” growing Central Park Conservancy’s online community and developing its brand. He has previously worked for mission-driven organizations like WNET (New York’s PBS station) and the Democratic National Committee during the first Obama campaign. Dan is a proud graduate of NYC public schools, including LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY.

SCOTT GETER

After earning his B.A. in Biology from Rutgers University, Scott taught Science to middle schoolers in the Newark, NJ school district for ten years. Over the years, Scott has taught Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, and coached his school’s First Lego League Robotics team. He has also taken part in piloting programs that strive to integrate disciplines and was a recipient of the Voya Financial “Unsung Hero Award” with his colleagues.

ELI SWAB

Eli joined i2 to help manage the first city-wide STEM Week program in Boston, where he grew up and went to high school. Raised by an industrial designer and a contractor, Eli has always valued problem solving and hands-on learning and work. Long interested in the intersection of policy, engineering, and education, in addition to working for i2 Eli is currently studying Ethics, Politics, & Economics, and Mechanical Engineering, at Yale.

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News

The Huffington Post – October 4, 2016
Boston Public Schools to Transform Classrooms into STEM Learning Labs

 

The majority of children born today will work for companies that have not yet been started, in fields which have not yet been invented. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is changing our world so rapidly that the facts we teach our children in middle school are often no longer true or relevant by the time those children graduate high school.

 

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show occupations related to STEM are projected to grow to more than nine million in the next six years. With that in mind, we need to instill in our youth, especially in underrepresented groups such as women and minorities, an interest and dexterity in science, technology, engineering and math.

 

That’s why we’re excited to host Boston STEM Week. From October 3-7, 36 middle schools across the city will replace all their regularly scheduled classes with a project-based STEM curriculum developed by MIT, i2 Learning and a number of other leading STEM organizations. During this week, classrooms will be transformed into STEM learning labs. Teachers and students will use the engineering design process and work in teams to solve real-world problems using hands-on experimentation, critical thinking and collaboration. All courses address real world challenges where students can see how STEM and STEM-related fields impact their everyday lives. Boston STEM Week was inspired by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) STEM for All initiative.

 

Read more…

The Boston Globe – October 3, 2016
Boston middle schoolers immersed in STEM topics

 

Students at the Oliver Hazard Perry School are not following their typical middle school syllabus this week.

 

Eighth-graders at the South Boston school spent Monday morning isolating their own DNA. Seventh-graders were creating light circuits. And sixth-graders were learning about Web design.

 

“You’ll see a lump of DNA. There was a lot, like a lot, of DNA,” eight-grader Joel Latimer said, after explaining how to isolate the genetic material with Gatorade, ethanol, and soap.

 

The Perry was among 36 Boston schools being transformed this week into learning labs focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math.

 

In all, 6,500 middle-school students in the city’s public schools are immersing themselves in STEM study, at a time of increased demand for proficiency on those fields in the working world.

 

The program, developed by leading STEM organizations, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, i2 Learning, and MathWorks, focuses on hands-on activities so students can learn in a way they wouldn’t ordinarily experience in a classroom.

 

Read more…

The Journal – September 22, 2016
36 Public Middle Schools to Join Inaugural Boston STEM Week

 

Next month, about 6,500 middle school students in Boston, MA will participate in Boston STEM Week. The first-of-its-kind initiative brings hands-on STEM curriculum developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other organizations to 36 middle schools in the Boston Public Schools district, with plans to reach 2,000 schools by the end of 2020.

 

From Oct. 3–7, participating BPS middle school classrooms will be transformed into learning labs, where students and teachers will work in teams to solve real-world problems through hands-on experimentation, critical thinking and collaboration. Regularly scheduled classes will be replaced with about 20-25 hours of STEM curriculum.

 

Read more…

EdTech Digest – December 9, 2015
Empowering Partnerships
How communities and businesses can help shape STEM education.

 

This past year, MathWorks partnered with i2 Learning, an organization that works with world-class scientific and academic institutions, and offered engaging and immersive STEM courses in engineering, genetics, robotics, mathematics, and more. The partnership provided 15 Boston area schools with financial support and STEM curriculum development as part of the Boston City Package – a “teach the teachers” pilot program designed to offer proper STEM training for Boston teachers of all technical backgrounds.

 

The teachers learned the curriculum in June and then practiced teaching it to middle school students in July. These courses – with topics ranging from Engineering Ice Cream, to Building Vertical Farms, to Contagion: Pandemic Response – are now being rolled into the school year curriculum, broadening the value of STEM learning to students in the Boston area.

 

As i2 Learning founder Ethan Berman says, “In all of the courses, there’s an aspect of creativity, questioning, and developing the skills of scientists and engineers. Students test things that may fail and then redesign and revise until they get where they want to be. They’re learning from that failure rather than being scared to fail.”

 

Collaboration and learning from failure are both key elements in STEM learning. So agrees Christopher Roche, a computer science and robotics teacher at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass. Roche says, “I love teaching my students something that they would use as if they were a professional engineer. The MATLAB computational software course, Bytes and Beats, teaches the fundamentals of programming with music and lets students engage with low-cost hardware, like Arduino and sensors – it’s active learning and they have fun doing it even when they’re finding themselves challenged in new ways.”

Read more…

Press Release – Evaluation of Public School District Program – October 5, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

October 5, 2015
Contact: Michael Zigman, i2 Learning
(646) 650-2900
michael@i2Learning.org
i2Learning.org

 

Independent Evaluation Released for i2 Learning’s Public School District Program

 

Teachers College Columbia University published its evaluation of i2 Learning’s program for the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District, finding the program to be exceptional for both student engagement as well as teacher professional development. The Center for Technology and School Change, led by Dr. Ellen Meier, authored the report.

 

In May 2015, i2 Learning (“i2”) partnered with the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District (“PCSD”) to run a week-long STEM immersion program for all sixth grade students and teachers in the district, with most of each school day dedicated to the i2 program. The PCSD program was the first time a public school district ran an i2 program district-wide.

 

The three i2 courses that ran at PCSD were: (1) Engineering Prosthetic Devices, (2) Architects of Time, and (3) Engineering Ice Cream. i2 trainers led three day-long professional development sessions for a total of 26 PCSD teachers who then led the teaching of the courses. i2 also provided all materials and supplies for the courses and teacher training.

 

The report was highly supportive of the program.  Among its core findings, the evaluation noted:

  • i2 courses engaged students in problem-solving and created openings for students to make conceptual connections across the STEM disciplines.
  • High levels of student engagement across all participating students, and student excitement to participate in the collaborative, hands-on STEM activities.
  • The Engineering Design Process provided a consistent structure for student exploration across courses, as well as an instructional strategy for scaffolding student problem-solving efforts.
  • The i2 Learning curriculum provided opportunities to reinforce core content from a STEM perspective.
  • The hands-on STEM learning experiences engaged students in problem-solving and provided structured opportunities to work collaboratively in teams.
  • When probing questions were used in the classrooms, observers noticed that it facilitated student problem-solving and deepened student understanding.

 

The report also found that teachers found the hands-on aspect and the collaborative planning time of the i2 professional development to be very helpful, and that they were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the program after it ended, with 92% of the teachers saying they would be interested in using the i2 curriculum in the future.

 

The complete report can be found here (PDF).

 


About i2 Learning
i2 Learning (www.i2Learning.org) enables schools to run immersive STEM programs for students in grades four through eight across the United States and around the world, both during the school year and in summer. i2 has partnered with MIT, the American Museum of Natural History, Woods Hole, Harvard and other world-class scientific and academic institutions to offer engaging, hands-on courses across engineering, genetics, robotics, computer science, mathematics, ecology and more. Each i2 course is a week-long, hands-on, immersive project, with the intention of engaging children in areas that they don’t typically see during the school year. i2 provides schools with the curriculum, professional development, materials and support to enable these programs.

The Journal News – May 22, 2015
STEM week engages Port Chester middle-schoolers

 

PORT CHESTER – Ice cream, the measurement of time and prosthetics aren’t typical subjects tackled in the school day of a sixth-grader.

 

But hundreds of Port Chester middle-schoolers have been away from their normal classes for a week so they can immerse themselves in the science behind those subjects.

 

In classrooms stretching across two hallways Thursday, students worked on prosthetic fish tails, voted on ice cream colors and fitted gears together in preparation for making a clock.

 

“They are doing science and math, in some ways they just don’t know it,” said Michael Zigman, the co-founder of i2 Learning, which developed the courses being used in Port Chester.

 

Students studying the course the Architects of Time had already invented new versions of the hourglass and built towers of tubes to test water wheels made of plates and plastic cups. Now, they were challenged to connect gears so the first and the last in the series turned in the same direction.

 

“It’s cool because it was like an investigation,” said Juanita Mitchell, a math teacher running one of the groups with reading and technology teacher Jennifer Jackson. “They didn’t realize they were little engineers.”

Read more…

Press Release – Port Chester Public School District – May 22, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PDF Available here

May 22, 2015
Contact: Michael Zigman, i2 Learning
(646) 650-2900
michael@i2Learning.org
i2Learning.org

 

Port Chester Public School District Runs First District-Wide i2 Learning Program

 

i2 Learning (“i2”) partnered with the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District (“PCSD”) to run a week-long STEM immersion program for all sixth grade students and teachers in the district, with most of each school day dedicated to the i2 program. The PCSD program is the first time a public school district has run an i2 program district-wide.

 

The three i2 courses that ran at PCSD were: (1) Engineering Prosthetic Devices, (2) Architects of Time, and (3) Engineering Ice Cream. i2 trainers led three day-long professional development sessions for a total of 26 PCSD teachers who then led the teaching of the courses. i2 also provided all materials and supplies for the courses and teacher training.

 

The i2 program, using a novel immersive format, gave PCSD students the opportunity to engage in a specially developed, highly motivational curriculum based on creative, hands-on STEM projects, activities and learning. i2 has partnered with leading scientific and academic institutions, including MIT, the American Museum of Natural History, Woods Hole and Harvard, to develop its programs.

 

PCSD has over 4,400 students, and the Middle School has nearly 1,000 students. Port Chester Middle School has been a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

 

“The i2 STEM immersion program has empowered our students to explore, tinker, fail, try again and ultimately succeed,” said Carlos Sanchez, Director of Curriculum for the district. “One of our goals in Port Chester is to create opportunities for all students regardless of demographics, and i2 fits that perfectly. With i2, our kids are excited to seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunity to see what life is like as an engineer or scientist.”

 

Chris Zidik, a sixth grade teacher, remarked how the i2 program “fully engaged our students across the board, from the high-performing ones to those with special needs. The immersive format helped students focus more deeply on their work.”

 

i2 has run its hands-on, immersive STEM programs for middle schoolers at dozens of locations across the United States, including New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Palo Alto, Philadelphia, Newark and Boston, as well as overseas in Kenya and Jordan.

 

i2’s goals of more deeply engaging children in the STEM fields and helping ignite a life-long interest in STEM are accomplished in three critical ways: (1) giving middle schoolers an opportunity to engage in creative, hands-on STEM learning experiences that they would not see in the course of their normal schooling, (2) providing its programs in an immersive fashion, and (3) providing expert-level, in-person professional development to teachers.

 

About i2 Learning

i2 Learning runs immersive STEM programs for students in grades four through eight across the United States and around the world, both during the school year and in summer. i2 has partnered with MIT, the American Museum of Natural History, Woods Hole, Harvard and other world-class scientific and academic institutions to offer engaging, hands-on courses across engineering, genetics, robotics, computer science, mathematics, ecology and more. Each i2 course is a week-long, hands-on, immersive project, with the intention of engaging children in areas that they don’t typically see during the school year.

Press Release – Professional Development Conference – March 23, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 23, 2015
Contact: Michael Zigman, i2 Learning
(646) 650-2900
michael@i2Learning.org
i2Learning.org

 

i2 Learning’s National Professional Development Conference Comes to Newark

 

Hundreds of educators from around the United States and overseas will gather in Newark, NJ for i2 Learning’s professional development conference that will bring the latest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) immersion to students in grades four through eight. The conference will take place on May 2 and 3 at Philip’s Academy Charter School.

 

With over 60 courses developed by over 20 world-class STEM institutions, including MIT, the American Museum of Natural History, Harvard and Woods Hole, i2 Learning creates week-long, hands-on programs that transform school classrooms into forensics labs, robotics workstations, 3D printing studios, innovation studios and more. For a week or more during the school year, in place of regular instruction, students collaborate on fully immersive STEM projects not ordinarily found in the classroom. With no grades and no clear-cut answers, students are given space to try boldly, fail and try again.

 

“We are happy to host the teacher training and also to have our own i2 Camp in Newark this summer, hopefully the first step in bringing STEM education to many more students and schools in our city,” said Philip’s Education Partners CEO, Miguel Brito.

 

The i2 Learning conference will give teachers the opportunity to network with fellow educators and learn directly from i2 Learning and its curriculum partners.

 

“I attended i2 teacher training for the first time last year and enjoyed every minute of it,” said Francesca Zammarano, Technology Integrator at United Nations International School who taught at i2 Camp. “I got to play with speakers and strobe lights and learned how to sew electric. I not only learned how to teach for i2 courses, but also learned new skills that I could bring to my own classroom. The trainers were hands on, helpful and enthusiastic!”

 

“The training was such a pleasure, and gave me a new perspective on project-based learning,” said Dr. Margarita Womack, Middle School Science Teacher at National Cathedral School. “It’s exciting to be contributing to i2!”

 

In addition to school-year programs, i2 Learning offers summer day camps in cities across the country delivering the same innovative curriculum taught by experienced K-12 school teachers. Learn more at i2camp.org.

 

About i2 Learning

i2 Learning runs immersive STEM programs for students in grades four through eight across the United States and around the world, both during the school year and in summer. i2 has partnered with MIT, the American Museum of Natural History, Woods Hole, Harvard and other world-class scientific and academic institutions to offer engaging, hands-on courses across engineering, genetics, robotics, computer science, mathematics, ecology and more. Each i2 course is a week-long, hands-on, immersive project, with the intention of engaging children in areas that they don’t typically see during the school year.

The Journal – February 2, 2015
School for Girls Tackles STEM Enthusiasm
with Interactive Monsters

 

Garrison Forest School (GFS), an independent K-12 school for girls, has teamed with a private partner to immerse girls in grades 4-5 in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for one week using an MIT Media Lab-created course.

 

Over the course of the week, the students will combine crafting with circuitry and Arduino programming to create an interactive monster.

 

To prepare for the week, students have been practicing basic sewing techniques and learning how to work with GUI programs such as Scratch and Blockly. Their teachers received a day of training, working through the steps of the project the students will undertake, from i2Learning.

Read more…

WIRED – November 21, 2014
Harvard Researchers Build $10 Robot That Can
Teach Kids to Code

 

At the 2014 AFRON Challenge, AERobot won the top honor in the software category, and it took second place in the hardware and curriculum categories. The team has since tested it with about 100 sixth- to eighth- graders at a STEM-focused summer camp called i2Camp, and they plan to do further tests this coming summer. Rubenstein says that for the bot’s next iteration, the group is focusing on improving the curriculum and the software, eliminating steps in the installation process and ensuring AERobot is so simple that kids can learn how to use the thing on their own—without a teacher.

Read more…

CBS – July 31, 2014
Eye On Education:
Innovative Camp Not Your Ordinary Summer School

 

“This is the opposite of dread. One of the reasons we’re targeting middle school is that this is an age where kids drop out from the world of STEM and we wanted to keep them within the world of STEM and then propel them on,” said Zigman.

 

“Probably the most important thing is to inspire the kids,” he added.

 

No grades. No risk. Teachers encourage experimentation and even failure.

 

Another student, Fernanda Forero from Hyde Park, says her dad is an engineer and has taught her a love for building things.

 

“We’re making this little factory, mini Lego factory,” said Ferero.

 

This is a camp for kids at every developmental stage. It’s not just for the MIT-bound budding genius.
Read more…