Monday, December 18, 2017

Connecting School Learning with Local Businesses...even for elementary students.

I'm thankful for Chattanooga and how it supports education in the Tennessee Valley. I'm thankful for local businesses that support the learning happening at Chattanooga Christian School. Recently we have been blessed by support from Bridge Innovate to allow our students to participate in a design thinking challenge. This is the second year that we have had a team to participate in this wonderful opportunity. This year the theme is "Transportation of the Future."

We have 6 fifth grade students that are participating in the challenge. These 6 students are using the design thinking process to dream about the future of transportation in the Chattanooga area. They have brainstormed and were broken up in groups to look at rural, urban, and waterway transportation. They have looked at feasibility at what seems like outlandish transportation of the future. They have thought about transportation from the viewpoint of the users.

As part of the design thinking process it is always good to get feedback on your idea. That's where our partnership with Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) came into play. CCS dad, Brent Matthews, is the Director of Parking and Security for CARTA. He graciously volunteered to speak with our students and answer some questions they had about transportation in Chattanooga. After a bit of planning, Brent and I soon realized that taking a field trip to the CARTA Shuttle Park South location would be very beneficial for our students. Cue last Friday! We loaded up on a CCS bus and we went to visit not just Mr. Matthews but also CARTA Executive Director, Lisa Maragnano. The students were wowed by the board room, the huge Chattanooga image on the wall, and the swag that Mr. Matthews shared with them. 
Our students had created questions in a Google Doc and this had been shared with Mr. Matthews and Mrs. Maragnano before our visit. Mr. Matthews immediately called the meeting to order and answered the questions on the document for the students. He then gave the students time to ask more questions and share their concept ideas. They were using their brand new mini notebooks given to them by Mr. Matthews to take notes during the meeting. We ended with a brief trip upstairs in the parking garage to see one of the 20 electric cars that Chattanooga has available as part of the Green Commuter Car Sharing program.

I won't share the secrets and plans for moving forward but I am thankful for CARTA and their willingness to invest in the lower school students at Chattanooga Christian School. Team work makes the dream work. The open attitude of area businesses coming alongside our students to give them opportunities to see real world STEAM jobs is a huge positive investment in the future. Anyone that knows me knows that I am passionate about our students having STEAM opportunities in an authentic setting. Chattanooga's innovative community makes it easy for educators to tap into ways for this to happen. 

If you look at the ISTE Standards for Students or the Essential Points of the Tennessee STEM Designated School program you will see that this type of opportunity isn't just seen as a perk but as essential to next generation education. With the connectedness of today's world, it's easier than ever before to get students figuratively and literally outside of their school box. Looking for opportunities to make that happen becomes the job of the educator. Becoming a well connected educator opens the door for you to be proactive in this. 

I will leave you with this, these 6 students spent approximately 45 minutes off campus in a boardroom asking questions, there was nothing magical about this trip but the sense of excitement on the way over and the sense of accomplishment on the way back was amazing. I will continue to look for more ways to give my students more amazing.