During winter intersession, the six weeks between the fall and spring semester, approximately 350 students in the Citizen Schools’ California region completed an academically rigorous STEM curriculum challenge. The curriculum created and licensed by Tata Consultancy Services, allows students to design paper and electronic prototypes of an app that will help solve a community problem. During their challenge, they get the chance to practice their design thinking skills through a lens of empathy while learning about different STEM careers.
As a culminating project students, working in groups of three or four create pitches about their application design and pitch their final app design to a panel of judges, in true "Shark Tank" style. This goIT project was a Level 4 Depth of Knowledge project, where students learn over an extended period-of-time to synthesize, reflect, conduct, and manage and idea.
A special shout-out to Citizen Schools’ Campus Directors, Teaching Fellows (TF), and Teaching Associates (TA) who all met weekly to review the curriculum and decide how best to present it to their students.
“The first two lessons were pretty teacher focused; there was a lot of information we had to convey to students, but once we got to the third unit, and students were able to begin thinking about a problem to solve in their community, the succeeding lessons were much easier to implement"
- Xitlali Jimenez (Teaching Fellow, William Sheppard)
TFs and TAs worked together and shared ideas at campus-based curriculum meetings as well as, talked about the pacing of the curriculum and motivational techniques to keep students focused. At the Joseph George campus, TF Clarissa Hyun shared how she found it more effective for her sixth-grade students to have shorter lessons at a higher frequency to be successful. She did goIT in smaller units almost every day during the six weeks of inter-session to keep students engaged and performing at high levels. Which speaks to both the curriculum’s adaptability and her ability to meet students at their level
At all five of the California campuses where goIT was implemented, staff put on a Shark Tank-like pitch event as the culminating activity for their projects. Students presented their pitches judge or panel of judges who evaluated them on a rubric that the students were familiar with and competed for first place.
TA Marlene Alatorre at Joseph George noted that “students were very excited about presenting, mainly because they had worked so hard on their projects. They all really wanted to win.” One student, Fabian Z., told her, “I never expected to finish the project, but my classmates and my teacher helped me develop enough screens for my wireframe so I knew I had a good project that I wanted to present.”
Sheree West, the Managing Director of Programs for Citizen Schools California, stated, “I was amazed by the presentations at Renaissance at Mathson where I served as one of the “sharks” on the panel for the student pitches. The students were well prepared, enthusiastic, and had clearly thought about how to solve community problems through the creation of an app. It was a wonderful experience.”
All Campus Directors shared that many students connected the information they saw in goIT to learning in previous apprenticeships, strengthening that knowledge. Further, all felt that students would apply the knowledge, particularly the design thinking process, to the upcoming spring apprenticeships.