All In: KID Museum Partnership Help Prepare Our Students for Their Futures
“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” — Stephen Covey, author, businessman and educator
I often cite the core purpose of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS): Prepare all students to thrive in their futures. I do this because it helps bring my focus back to what is important and essential. It is, indeed, the reason that we exist as an organization.
I also talk about the importance of developing and nurturing partnerships with parents, community members, governmental agencies, and nonprofit and community organizations. Each one of us has areas of expertise that supplement and augment what we collectively do on behalf of the children in our county.
Today, I want to highlight the work of one of our partners: the KID Museum. Our partnership with the museum launched about five years ago and has been refined each year since.
The mission of the museum “is to empower kids to become the creative problem solvers of tomorrow.” Its website goes on to say that, “The museum provides impactful hands-on learning that incorporates STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), art and culture with 21st century skills like creativity and critical thinking.” This mission meshes seamlessly with that of MCPS.
Students in about 20 MCPS middle schools participate in the museum’s Invention Studio, where they engage in hand-on, project-based learning experiences. Students visit the museum five times during the year; they work in teams to develop an idea to solve a real-world problem; design a project; build a prototype; and test their solution, adapting it as they encounter problems. KID Museum educators work with small groups of students, guiding them through the invention process. Emma Starr from the KID Museum explains that students learn hard skills, such as coding and electricity, but they also learn soft skills, such as collaboration, grit and perseverance. In addition to their work at the museum, student teams receive ongoing support from their teachers at school.
During the yearlong project, students are engaged in thinking about how to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-life situation. They construct deep understanding while engaged in the project and find the activities engaging because they are driven by curiosity and a desire to figure out how to make their project work. They work collaboratively with peers, communicating during the design, construction and testing phases. They get immediate feedback when their projects work or don’t work.
Parkland Middle School has been partnering with the KID Museum for five years. The student program has looked a little different each year. This year, almost 100 students are in a pilot program where they participate in the museum’s Invent the Future Challenge during the school day. The goal of this pilot is to connect the learning that occurs in the Invent the Future program with the MCPS science curriculum. “This partnership has always benefited our students and staff,” said Parkland Principal Aaron Shin. “For our students, they have been exposed to hands-on, experiential learning by participating in lessons and activities that reflect the engineering design process. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and build resiliency in their learning. Furthermore, they develop communication skills to collaborate with their peers. As for staff, they benefit from being exposed to 21st century learning, and then add these styles of teaching and learning into the classroom.” The work of one of the Parkland teams is featured in this video.
Cara Lesser, founder and executive director of the KID Museum, recently spoke about its work during the Fiscal Year 2021 Superintendent’s Recommended Budget Presentation. She emphasized that it is important to “engage students at the youngest age possible to see their capabilities as learners and to spark skill development, along with the mindset of kids as creative problem solvers.”
MCPS is placing an emphasis on including students in these programs who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM, including girls, Hispanic/Latino, and Black or African American students. MCPS funding is allocated to schools with the highest rates of students living in poverty. This year, more than 1,000 MCPS students will participate in the museum’s Invent the Future Challenge and more than 650 students are participating in the Invention Studio program. In addition, many teachers will receive training through the museum, so future students in these teachers’ classrooms will benefit as well.
The KID Museum is one of many MCPS partnerships. We are fortunate to live in a community where so many individuals and organizations are invested in helping our students thrive in their futures. Through these partnerships, I am confident that we will achieve our greatest success by combining our efforts with theirs.
As we all know, learning doesn’t stop when you become an adult. I am constantly learning about new ideas and exploring new perspectives. I do this through books, articles and podcasts. Each blog, I will share a few of the most interesting ones with you. Some have made me ask questions, some have irritated me; others have made me smile or frown. I hope they make you think critically and open doors to new information and ideas.