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Doing Work That Matters

I will celebrate, in two weeks, the fantastic culmination of a year of work by the third and fourth grade research fellows at Baden Academy’s Imagination Celebration. With limited resources and mentors that span the globe, twelve research fellows and their ten assistants have developed a virtual scale model of the school in MinecraftEdu, made a meaningful contribution to control the population of stray cats in the county with webisodes of The Kitty Whisperers, created a Monarch Way Station at the school, programmed computer music and mobile apps, created an on demand souvenir web site to raise funds for the lab, wrote three original books raising funds for the Pittsburgh Food Bank, National Aviary, and PetSmart Charities, designed radiation shielding for the NASA Design Challenge, prepared a special classroom presentation instilling good computer habits in our school’s students, and created meaningful films celebrating the good work of these students.

Fourth graders, studying a unit on weather patterns in the Virtual Worlds program, combined their knowledge with the rubrics from descriptive paragraph writing and constructed original, creative Storm Stories being sold as an anthology to benefit the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

The details of the projects swirled in my head Wednesday BC STEM meeting as John Radzilowicz from ASSET talked about what makes good STEM programs. He referred to the collaborative work between South Fayette students and All-Clad, a local cookware manufacturer, where students, ideas are being incorporated into new products.

Will Richardson, in his recent blog posted on MindShift, cites examples of 16-year-old Sean Fay Wolfe, whose 422-page book Quest for Justice (a novel set in Minecraft) is currently ranked in the top 1 percent in sales of books sold on Amazon, 12-year-old “Super Awesome Sylvia” Todd, who designed and helped to create a water color replicator that now sells in kit form for $295, or 15-year-old Jack Andraka, who used his after school time to work in a Johns Hopkins laboratory to invent a cancer test for prostate cancer.

I am working with 12 year old intern, StormC, to create a meaning based Scratch Curriculum.  Initial projects are animated cards that celebrate culture, history, and raise awareness.  The higher belt levels ask students to collaborate with local historical societies to preserver stories and artifacts from the past.

This is a new era. Every one of our students can create and share and connect in ways that didn’t exist even a decade ago. But the laws that protected a 12 year old from being put to work in factories and mines, can’t navigate the now complicated maze of Intellectual Property Rights and internationally earned royalties. Meaning based projects that step into the areas of corporate profits and fundraising from not for profits require parent involvement. These projects are only possible when the over 18, legally responsible and tax paying parent, decides to partner with the amazing potential of meaning based projects of their children. What meaningful projects are your kids working on?

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