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Mountain Park making changes that inspire collaboration through @AK12DC

February 28, 2015

K12_Logo_FINAL copy

I recently visited one of the eleven schools that are part of Atlanta K12 Design Challenge (@ak12dc).  Mountain Park Elementary, the Mustangs (@MPE_Mustangs), is a Fulton County School north of the I-285 loop.  I met with Stacy Perlman, the school’s principal, and Wendy Kelly, the school’s project-based learning coach.  After our meeting they took me on a tour of first grade classrooms and a number of TAG classrooms.  It was a very inspiring meeting that provided a window into the school’s work since spring 2014.  Both of them expressed great satisfaction with the AK12DC program and what the Design Team and faculty have been able to accomplish at Mountain Park.

In AK12DC, schools have learned and implemented a design thinking process modeled after work at the Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design to tackle a school challenge identified in Phase I of our project.  After collecting empathy from their user, Mountain Park faculty, the school’s Design Team came up with the following point-of-view statement:

  • we met…several hardworking Mountain Park teachers who hold themselves to
    extremely high standards
  • we were amazed to realize…how much they feel like their day-to-day schedules
    and tasks prevent them from making the most of the time they have with their
    students and colleagues.
  • it would be game changing if we…staffers had clarity, confidence, and ownership
    to implement school-wide enrichment to help students become real-world problem
    solvers.

One of their tasks in the spring of 2014 was to create a new schedule that would faculty to implement the school’s enrichment program with greater fidelity.  In particular, they were interested in launching some project-based learning in their science and social studies classes at different grades.  The following slide shows their first prototype of a new schedule which they tested in  spring 2014.

MP schedule

They use the enrichment block built into the schedule for teachers and students to design, implement and showcase different PBL units that engage students in more open-ended, student-centered learning.  The following slide illustrates a few examples of what they have been working on.

Mountain_Park_enrichment block

It was clear from my visit that the faculty has embraced using the enrichment block to experiment with some new ideas and curriculum.  This year, they have been working on iterating their prototype and collecting more empathy data from their user to go a little deeper into their work.  The following slide illustrates some of their project unknows and big questions that they are exploring.  As Mountain Park’s Design Team goes deeper into addressing their point-of-view statement they are learning a great deal about their faculty culture and what it takes to promote innovation in their school.  The following two slides illustrates their design-thinking action plan, with unknowns and questions to answer, as well as a glimpse at the concept map that guides their work.

Mountain_Park_2015-01_AP.slide 2

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Mountain Park’s work is just one example of what is happening in Atlanta K12 Design Challenge in Atlanta, GA.  Ten other design teams from four more Fulton County schools and a group of six independent schools are working hard to use design thinking as a process for initiating and support innovation in their schools.

If you want more information about AK12DC follow us on Twitter @ak12dc or email me at robertryshke@westminster.net.

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