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 school 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 developed i2 Month, where 5 schools in Boston ran 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 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.
i2 Month proved to be another success as another 5 schools will be running the program in November 2018 in addition to the original 5 schools who will all be running the program for a second time.
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.”
We need to give students the skills to be successful in a rapidly changing world where tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges haven’t even been considered yet
Students learn best when they are engaged in their work
Subject matter should not be taught as stand-alone units but instead integrated with other disciplines and shown to be relevant, as they are in the real world
To change schools at scale we must take advantage of the immense infrastructure that already exists within the public school system
The proper preparation and training of teachers is the most important element in a successful program
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.
A graduate of Teacher’s College at Columbia University, and former teacher of all-things science, Vicky brings an academic background in Chemistry and Education to her work at i2. What she loves most about i2’s programs is the power the courses have to positively impact teachers’ and students’ self-images and confidence, and convince them that they can do anything they put their mind to. When not hanging out with her i2 family, Vicky can be reliably found playing with her dogs, Jack and Teddy.
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.
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.
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.
After graduating from Penn with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Materials Science, Debby launched fully into the world of education — starting with a brief stint at i2. Two years of teaching elementary school in Chicago with Teach for America gave Debby a love for teaching and inspired her to pursue widespread change in education, so she came back to i2 ready to reach students around the country and the world.
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.