FH Innovates Update: FH Leads

Hello, friends. It’s been a minute! My final masters class has been a slog, but I’m happy to report I’m basically done. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.

A lot has been happening with Fair Haven Innovates – the 21st century life, innovation, and technology program I created and run – since I last wrote. So how about an update? This week, we’ll start with my 8th grade, student-run business FH Leads.

Make it real and make it relevant are the two core values I kept in mind when I was designing FH Leads, my 8th grade consulting firm. The more real and relevant a problem is to their lives, the more passion my 8th graders will have for solving it. To make FH Leads as meaningful as possible for students, I have to get them into the real world; kids need to interact with their community. So last year, I reached out to our local hospital, Riverview, about being our first client. They couldn’t have been more excited. Through last Christmas and into last summer, we planned what the FH Leads/Riverview partnership would look like.

I did a lot of research and spoke to a lot of educators about their school/institution partnerships. I learned a lot of best practices, but two areas in the school/institution partnership stuck out to me as areas I really wanted to improved upon with FH Leads. Many partnerships seemed to be centered around 1) fake or easy problems for students to solve and 2) most programs stopped the design process at prototyping. I don’t want fake or easy problems for my kids. I want real, hard problems. I’d rather have my students fail at solving a real, hard problem than solve an easy, manufactured problem. Further, the problem with stopping students at prototyping is that they never get to the test stage. There are a million valuable life lessons to be found in the test stage. None more important than students learning to reframe failure as iteration as they test their designs and learn from failure. I don’t just want to propose prototypes and hypotheticals to the hospital and have kids wondering what if… I want  them to be able to test and iterate on their designs at least once. I want design doing, not just design thinking. I told the hospital that 1) my kids needed their real, most pressing problems and 2) my kids need to test their solutions in the hospital with the people their prototypes affect. The hospital totally got it and agreed. We were off and running. 

School started and the first few weeks of FH Leads focused on three things: teaching students to use our design process, developing the core values of our company, and creating a mission statement to keep us mission driven.

Students came up with these core values and mission statement to guide our attitude and purpose in FH Leads:

Core Values

Hardwork Pays Off
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
No Days Off
Try, Try Again
Ship It!
Be Mission Driven
Build Bridges Not Walls

Mission Statement

We are a student-run consulting firm. We give back to our community by using our design process to help local businesses grow. FH Leads will be the competitive advantage local businesses can’t wait to hire because they know when they hire us they are getting the tireless dedication and next-level innovation needed to grow their business. From our clients, we will learn more about careers and enrich our knowledge as we make a positive impact wherever we go.

After building our business culture, we started our 8 week design challenge with our first client, Riverview hospital! 4 weeks ago, Riverview sent the head of a different department to each one of my 5 FH Leads classes to deliver each class their own challenge.

Class 1: How might we improve the lost and found system when it comes to cell phones? Riverview told us that they spend thousands of dollars a year replacing patients’ lost and forgotten cell phones. They asked if my students could design a process and a product to help them help patients to not lose their phone when they are in the hospital. To prevent loss while in the hospital, students have been designing a boxes for patients to keep their cell phone in and experimenting with the best place to put the box since they decided it should be in arm’s reach of patients. Further, and if you’ve been a reader of this blog for awhile you know how exciting this part is for me: I turned students on to nudge theory to find ways to help remind patients to take their cell phones and chargers with them when they’re discharged.

Class 2: How might we find a way to improve Riverview’s wheelchair tracking system? Students were fascinated to learn that busy nurses often hide wheelchairs in closets and showers, rather than returning them, since they are in such high demand. This was a big empathy lesson for students because at first they couldn’t wrap their heads around nurses “stealing” wheelchairs. But when our speaker told students what the typical day is like for a nurse, things became more clear. Most students in this class have started to develop a way to use the Raspberry Pi and RFID to track wheel chairs that can then be retrieved by volunteers.

Class 3: How might we help lost visitors find their way around the hospital by creating an all volunteer escort service and improving Riverview’s map of the hospital? One particularly clever student brought up that Disney likely put a fortune into designing the perfect map for theme parks. Since then, this class had been redesigning the hospital map as if it were a Disney map. Really cool stuff. I just need to do a better job in reminding them about the volunteer escort service part.

 

Class 4: How might we improve patients’ dignity by redesigning the hospital gown and sending patients home in clean clothes? Patients sometimes come to the hospital in soiled clothing. Riverview asked us to design a process for buying or cleaning these patients clothes so they can leave the hospital feeling and looking good. Further, while in the hospital many patients don’t wearing like the gowns. Students have been modeling the gowns and coming up with new ways to keep all of a patient’s vital areas

accessible to hospital staff while not leaving patients “butts blowing in the wind.” In the last class, there was debate among groups over who was going to learn how to sew. I’m excited to see some final products for this one! Like in Class 3, I need to do a better job reminding them to work on the clean-clothes process.

 

Class 5: How might we improve the phlebotomy process for younger patients who need to have blood drawn? The head of phlebotomy came in and explained to students how hard it is to draw blood from a panicked patient. Students have been designing “blinds” and other products to help with the blood drawing process. I was particularly proud of this class as they came up with the unique idea of developing preventive measures to calm patients down as they acknowledged the role that “the unknown” plays in fear. They believe if they can better inform young patients about what to expect, they will panic less when it is time to give blood.

I’m hoping through this eight week warm up with Riverview I can improve students creative confidence as they 

use our design process to solve these wicked problems. Creative confidence is still a work in progress. I was surprised, and maybe I shouldn’t have been, that many students didn’t think they had much to offer the hospital. They didn’t see themselves having the ability to make a difference. When they heard the problems the hospital proposed, some felt it was out of their power to solve them. I hope I can continue to encourage them and help them understand they can make a difference. 

I imagine my kids starting to learn about our design process in 4th and 5th grade through The Innovation Lab and their time with me would culminate in FH Leads. I wanted students to get out into the real world and work with real people and hear about their real problems. I always say if my kids leave my program have developed empathy for others and understanding that a design process can be used to solve all of life’s problems, I’ve done my job. I’ve started down this long road, but I think it is a road worth traveling. After this next eight weeks, FH Leads will start working with nineteen local business who have agreed to hire my FH Leads students for a 20 week design intervention. I’m so confident my kids have something to offer everyone, I said FH Leads will work for free this year to build our portfolio, but next year we’re charging! 

Until Next Time,

GLHF

Evolving Our Makerspace: An EdCorp Designing for Slack

When I got to Fair Haven two years ago, I started our version of a makerspace called The Innovation Lab. In The Innovation Lab, we use design thinking to make for others as we expose kids to computer science, engineering, and the digital arts. Six months after launching the Innovation Lab, I realized I had a problem. As part of engineering, Katie and I let students take apart electronics donated by the community. Students love to take things apart, and while we try to put the electronics back together, we are often unsuccessful. This leaves us with a lot of disassembled junk in the lab that we were just throwing away. I wasn’t cool with that, so The Innovation Lab evolved. We added our Parts to Arts initiative to the Lab: after taking something apart, if students can’t put it back together, they are challenged to upcycle the pieces into art.

This Parts to Arts evolution led to an innovation. We now had a bunch of art in The Innovation Lab that students were just taking home or still throwing out. Students kept commenting that it would be cool to try and sell their art, so I built them a student-run online marketplace called FH Gizmos (this new FH Gizmos is still under construction). School Year to Date, FH Gizmos has made about five hundred dollars. More importantly, students love learning about and through entrepreneurship and so do I!

I say I love it too, not just because of the fun I’m having with the kids and FH Gizmos, but my personal life has taken an exciting entrepreneurial turn as well. When I got to Fair Haven, I met Chris Dudick. Chris is an innovative art teacher who had created an app to make animations with his special needs students that help improve their social skills. I loved the idea, and when Chris wanted to get serious about it, he asked if I would come aboard to help him bring his idea to market. Together we launched SiLAS. SiLAS has been a huge hit. SiLAS has spread word-of-mouth to more than a dozen districts in our area. We recently received a huge Phase I NSF grant to develop SiLAS for the browser and virtual reality. When I’m not working on The Innovation Lab, I’m working on SiLAS.  Through Teched Up Teacher, FH Gizmos, and SiLAS I’ve come to realize the power of teaching students through the lens of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has taken over my life!

That’s why I was so excited when John and Elyse from Real World Scholars reached out to me with an amazing opportunity. RWS provides funding for K-12 teachers to build student-run Education Corporations in their classrooms to use business as a force for learning. RWS asked if we would like to become an edcorp and receive an inventory grant that we can use to turn FH Gizmos into a real student-run startup.

Absolutely!

Funding in hand, I set out to evolve The Innovation Lab again. I wanted the new FH Gizmos to have an authentic audience and be student driven. I also wanted students to grow the skills that pay the bills. One of the most important skills students need to learn is how to communicate asynchronously effectively. This belief led me to call up one of my edu-heroes, Kristen Swanson. Kristen is one of the original founders of Edcamp and now works for a company called Slack. Slack is my go to for asynchronous communication: SiLAS, my fantasy football league, and even one of my grad classes runs on Slack.

While it turns out, I couldn’t use Slack with my students because they weren’t thirteen yet, Kristen was curious enough to ask why I wanted to use Slack in the classroom. An FH Gizmos elevator pitch later, Kristen loved the idea and offered to have Slack be our first client!

FH Gizmos landed a multi-billion dollar client!

This Monday, we started our Slack Design Challenge. I shared these well wishes from Elyse at RWS as my kids began their new life as an edcorp:

To help us kick off the empathy phase of our design process, Kristen and Kelly sent over this design brief on Monday:

We’ve been making empathy maps all week in an attempt to better understand Slack’s need, but I really want you to know what makes this program we’re building extra special:

Beyond FH Gizmos making real money and having a real customer for their creations, students were most excited about FH Gives (also under construction). RWS not only helped us become a real business, but they also helped us build a real student-run charity. We’re social entrepreneurs! The kids voted to give 25% of FH Gizmos’ profits to the FH Gives foundation where Fair Haven students will decide how to distribute Impact Grants in their community.

I’m going to try and write weekly about the Slack Design Challenge and how we are evolving our makerspace because I hope to inspire other educators and (especially) admins to break down these edusilos we teach kids in and move toward a more real, authentic, and relevant curriculum. The type of teaching going on in most schools was meant to provide workers for the factories during the Industrial Revolution. Now, we will be sending our kids into the businesses of the Technological Revolution. Its times to evolve. I plan on evolving our program further:

The state of New Jersey has mandated new 21st Century Life and Career Ready standards. These fit perfectly into my new vision for our makerspace! A vision for a program that combines a 21st Century Life and Career readiness program with The Innovation Lab that teaches through the lens of social entrepreneurship. I pitched my vision for the program to my awesome superintendent, Sean McNeil and Principal, Amy Romano, and our amazing board of education. Next year, if everything goes according to plan, this new program, Fair Haven Innovates, will see The Innovation Lab slide down to 4th and 5th grade. 6th grade will become a class built around FH Gizmos, a student-run startup where we will tackle tame problems, sell the solutions, and grow an empire. 7th grade will be a class where environmental stewardship and innovative gardening practices meets entrepreneurship and the Internet of Things in a class called FH Grows. 8th grade will become Fair Haven Innovates’ crown jewel: a student-run consulting firm that works with small businesses in our community to find innovative solutions to their wicked, real-life business problems in a class called FH Leads. All the classes – FH Gizmos, FH Grows, and FH Leads – will donate 25% of their profits to our student-run charity FH Gives so we can make a difference in our school and community.

The Fair Haven Innovates program will change the world. Join us!

As a RWS Ambassador, I have nine more funded slots to give away to teachers and students who want to leverage the power of entrepreneurship in the classroom to breakdown edusilos and get relevant. Email me a video of your 60 second elevator pitch. If it’s awesome, you win a slot!

Until next time,

GLHF