Colorado Expressions December 17, 2018
mindSpark Learning Links Education to Industry with Innovative Programs for Teachers and Entire School Districts
Sparking the smallest change can ignite a blaze of progress. In this fast-paced world, we process rapid-fire information, we consume cutting-edge technology and we expect revolutionary transformation in every industry. Disrupting the status quo and innovative ideas now steer the global economy.
Our schools are shouldered with the Herculean task of equipping students with skills that accommodate an unknown future. Graduates must possess knowledge, experience and resources that can be applied to any sector; some that may not even exist yet.
Connecting teachers, schools and districts to the shifting demands of the modern workforce, local nonprofit mindSpark Learning is the bridge linking education to industry. Unwavering determination to revolutionize education drives the team at mindSpark as they forge new partnerships.
The organization describes its mission this way: “At mindSpark Learning we leverage industry to support educators and students so they can cultivate essential skills which ultimately results in a more dynamic talent pipeline and a workforce that industry can benefit from immediately.”
What does that look like?
They offer immersive professional experiences, events and institutes that challenge current teaching practices. CEO Kellie Lauth explains, “We work with all schools and districts, public, private, charter. We also work with municipalities, community colleges, and industry partners. We offer programs for individual teachers, individual schools, and entire districts. We do not offer canned, off-the-shelf programming. All of our partnership with schools and educators is customized and based upon their problems of practice and need.”
These deeply engaging experiences (designed and delivered by local teachers) give educators the professional respect and autonomy they deserve, a creative space to push boundaries and tools to inspire their students. “At mindSpark Learning, we create a disruptive cycle that we put educators and schools through, asking tough questions, pushing them on their identity and creating new paradigms of change,” Lauth says, “It is not easy, but when teachers are empowered, they transfer this empowerment to their students.”
Equipping students with 21st century soft skills like creativity, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and adaptability are crucial to landing a future career. Teachers learn how to develop and nurture these skills in their students. “We believe in this so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution.’ It is really a human-driven revolution in which education will need to be more responsive, dynamic, and innovative than ever before,” Lauth says. “We do believe teachers are the greatest levers for transforming education and the schools are the units of change.”
Spreading like wildfire, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) schools are popping up across the country. Tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft have reshaped classroom curriculum. Not only are computer science, coding, engineering and robotics classes in great demand, highly qualified STEM teachers are a hot commodity. Recognizing this need, mindSpark offers a graduate level STEM teaching certification program for educators.
They also have the perfect person at the helm. CEO Kellie Lauth launched three STEM schools nine years ago. “We started one of the first public STEM schools in the country that served K-8 students,” Lauth recalls. “Students as young as age 5, through grade 12, get a real problem from industry or current media, work in collaborative teams to create viable solutions, present their solutions to an authentic panel of industry experts and get a chance to redesign. There are two ways their solutions end, either in a large impactful community service outreach or by launching their own company.”
At STEM schools, industry leaders are mentors to staff and help design the curriculum. Partnering with schools, industry leaders provide expertise and experience to create change in communities they care about. All students, not just those at specific STEM schools, are learning STEM techniques as hundreds of public schools incorporate this model of thinking.
When you offer revolutionary workshops that transform school climate and culture, accessibility is a high priority. Teaming with the Morgridge Family Foundation and the University of Denver, mindSpark Learning attendees have access to $1 million in Morgridge grant money and earn graduate level DU credits.
The education system is perceived to be this enormous, unchangeable entity. However, it is made up of smaller, more malleable pieces. Neighborhood schools are constantly improving their curricula, training teachers and keeping their ear to the ground as they prepare students for greatness. By partnering with mindSpark, schools can keep pace with the workforce. “Education is the answer to so many global problems. We want education to be valued as a way to change the world, not as a system that simply exists within it,” Lauth says.
“We want to exponentially create change by galvanizing partnerships with schools and communities. We are the epicenter for these partnerships and our customized professional experiences are a bridge for this transformative work, not a net. We stand by our vision of: Transform Schools. Galvanize Communities. Forge Partnerships. Change the World.”