COMMUNITY KAIZEN #3 - KNOX PARK PRIMARY SCHOOL - STEM STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
Our 3rd LEAN dot Group Community Kaizen was boldly aimed at tackling a large problem facing Australian Industry, its Educators but most importantly our future workforce - our Children.
Leading up to CK#3, a significant piece of research was undertaken to ask why a widening gap is forming between the Industry need for candidates with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and candidates with relevant STEM qualifications and experience.
Of course, any opportunity of this size would have a significant number of potential causal areas that would have to be investigated.
To gather a first-hand understanding of the work being done and the challenges facing all process owners, a Go-Look-See, Ask-Why, Show-Respect approach was taken to go to the source starting with a local Victorian Primary School, Knox Park.
So we laced up our boots and hit the road...
UN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
COMMUNITY KAIZEN ORGANISATION PROFILE
NAME AND LOCATION OF THE ORGANISATION BEING HELPED:
- Knox Park Primary School, Knoxfield, Victoria, Australia
- The school is situated in the attractive, natural bushland setting adjacent to Lakewood Reserve, Knoxfield.
- Enrolment is currently 302 students, with 35 staff.
DESCRIBE THEIR PURPOSE / REASON TO EXIST:
- "...strive to provide educational excellence through quality teaching and learning that stimulates curiosity and promotes further investigation."
WHAT PRODUCTS / SERVICES DO THEY PROVIDE TO FULFILL THEIR PURPOSE?
- "We provide a comprehensive and sequential curriculum with an Inquiry focus. Our high quality staff provide a caring and stimulating learning environment for all. We pride ourselves on the continued academic success of our children as we prepare them to be 21st Century learners and citizens."
WHO ARE THEIR CUSTOMERS?
- Children / Students
WHO: OUR LDG VOLUNTEERS
We would like to give our sincere thanks to our Community Kaizen Participants who dedicated theirs and their organisations' time to join us in assisting the team in preparation for this event either through research or participation:
- Jill Barnett
- Clim Pacheco
- Tim Odokeychuk
WHERE WE ARE NOW VS. WHERE WE WANT TO BE
Following a significant amount of research into the current state of the effectiveness of our Australian Education system, measurable gaps were identified between STEM qualified graduates and the those available to fill the growing demand for these skills across our industry.
Australian Ministers for Education had recently formed a National STEM School Education Strategy to achieve two goals critical in closing these gaps - namely that:
- All students leave school with foundational knowledge in STEM disciplines along with associated skills
- Students are inspired to pursue increasingly challenging STEM subjects through their learning lives.
OBSERVE, LEARN, SHOW RESPECT...
To validate the numerous white paper and research findings calling for improvement, our journey had to begin with a visit to where the work was taking place.
We chose Knox Park Primary School (KPPS), not only due to existing relationships, but also that it represented the 'mean' of most of Australian Primary schools: it's a public school, within a middle-class socio-economic region with high ethnic and student gender diversity.
Approval to undertake interviews with both the Principal and Vice-Principal along with an observation session with the STEM Planning Committee was quick to come given our volunteer-based approach.
The perspectives provided by those involved across the process of design, planning, delivery and administration of the STEM curriculum activities offered an incredible amount of insight into the challenges that exist to engage today's students in a program that is both rewarding and fun.
All is certainly not straight-forward - budgets are limited, allocated planning time and actual STEM activity materials are in short supply making session plans very 'creative' (ranging from paper folding exercises, to Die Hard 3-like Water Jug Maths Problems - see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVtQNK_ZUJg)
Although current technologies are found in almost every classroom, building skills needed for the future seemed to be difficult given the access to those resources is limited due to a regional sharing model across several schools in the area. Expensive subscription-based digital STEM activities are also somewhat prohibitive.
What we summarized from our observation were the net pain points felt by stakeholders in their efforts to effectively deliver the STEM curriculum:
ENGAGE TO INSPIRE DEEP LEARNING
With all problems and initial understanding of their causes, a question that Lean Practitioners need to always ask themselves is - "What can we do NOW to remove waste and return to meaningful work for the Customer's benefit?"
After a short reflection period, I thought - "Why don't we engage the students in using a new technology to learn about a historical event?"
A proposal was put forward to the team at KPPS to use the recently launched Windows Mixed Reality platform to take students on a journey to the moon using ImmersiveVR's re-creation of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission.
It took approximately 3 seconds for their agreement to come back and off we went to plan how to make it happen. Well, I could be exaggerating - it might have only been 2 seconds...!
There were some criteria that needed to be met make this activity happen:
- alignment to the curriculum for a primary school grade level that is currently relevant;
- measurement of outcome (what specific gap are we intending to close?);
- how best to fill the students with confidence to try something new to learn.
It wasn't before long that we found the answer to these questions and focused energies on this year's most recent term in May to take all of the Grade 3 Students on a round trip over 1.5 million kilometres over 6 x 1 1/2 hour sessions!
DELIVERING GOOD CHANGE
Across 2 consecutive Fridays (May 5th and 12th, 2018), we held our STEM Engagement Community Kaizen delivering 6 sessions to 43 Grade 3 Students.
The Grade 3 curriculum included the concept of Day and Night as well as Earth's position and relationship to other celestial objects aligning this activity perfectly with the start of Term 2.
Our delivery process started with an introduction for the students to the Apollo 11 Mission using poster work and an interactive discussion on why they think the United States thought it was important to go to the moon, what they think the Astronauts saw when they were in space and what countries collaborated to help make the mission a success.
We then discussed Australia's role through the Peakes Observatory (New South Wales) to help broadcast the video and audio signals received from the moon's Tranquillity Base around the world so that millions of people to see what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were doing on their extended moon walks.
We also explained the technology of Virtual Reality as well as its history as a concept and device history. Our inquiries found that 11 of the 43 Students had experienced VR in one form or another during their 8-9 years of age.
As you can see from our photos, we encouraged the supervising Teachers to be first to try the experience to show that there was nothing to fear and to encourage the children to "have a go". It's safe to say that many of them enjoyed it as much, if not more than some of the children.
Every brave Class-tronaut received an Apollo 11 Mission badge sticker to show off around the school and at home. Only 1 Student out of the 43 opted to sit back and watch which was accepted without question from their classmates. That Student was also awarded a mission badge having been in charge of Houston "ground control".
It sincerely feels incredible to have been able to have a direct impact on the learning journeys of tomorrow's Leaders.
Although we have been undertaking Community Kaizen activities since late 2016, this was that just bit more special and plan to undertake further STEM related activities to continue to close the gap of engagement to hopefully inspire our youth to pursue more challenging roles into their working lives.
Along with the LEAN dot Group Membership, I would personally like to thank Michael Puddy, Shannon Flynn and Michael Doukakis for allowing us the insights needed to learn more about the challenges you face to look after our children's' educational future and to accept our STEM engagement solution so readily.
If you would like to find out more about the Knox Park Primary School, visit their website (http://knoxparkps.vic.edu.au).
To our Community Kaizen Team Members, thank you very much for investing your time in preparation for many similar Community Kaizen activities to come.
CAN WE SCALE?...
The volunteer resources invested into Community Kaizen #3 were approximately $7,500 AUD not including capital investment.
Since February 2017, we have been seeking funding and collaboration support to solve this wider problem leveraging our nearly 100 registered LEAN dot Group participants.
It's been extremely challenging to arrive at a point where this can be achieved however we're determined to work with those who share our goals of using proven improvement methodologies to create outcomes that will benefit us all - either as givers or receivers.
For this situation in particular, it's clearly not a solution to increase funding of a system that needs urgent rework. Australia has fallen further behind amongst our OECD peers several months if not years in basic Literacy and Numeracy. We believe that we can have direct impact towards positive classroom engagement using similar approaches used in this Community Kaizen.
If your organisation wishes to make a difference with us, please contact me directly to discuss how we can work together at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder, LEAN dot Group