Catalyst Education Lab's hands-on, minds-on week in Cambridge

Kate Stringer
hands on education

This summer, J-WEL continues a series of exciting collaborations with Catalyst Education Lab, a six-school consortium in Hong Kong dedicated to transforming education for present and future generations of K-12 learners. In June, 32 educators traveled to Cambridge to take part in a deep-dive Exchange with MIT staff and faculty. The group's goals for the week were to participate in immersive experiences around project-based-learning, to develop skills to become change agents in schools or classrooms, to develop a concrete project idea for their schools, and to gain experience in communication and persuasion by pitching their lesson or project to their peers.

Over the course of a week, participants traveled to learning innovation hubs all over campus, including D-Lab, Edgerton Center, and the Media Lab, and participated in activities designed to jumpstart their thinking about project-based curriculum-building. As part of an Engineering module taught by Dr. Claudia Urrea, J-WEL pK-12 Associate Director, participants learned to use sensors and actuators, and write simple procedures using loops and logic commands. As part of the experience they had to solve a number of challenges, such as building a house alarm, turning a light on when it is dark, starting a water pump when soil is too dry, or building a small car made of GoGo boards that avoids obstacles (as pictured below).

The activity was so successful that GoGo board use made its way into some of the final projects. Topics included working with the elderly to help them solve challenges of daily life, a mentoring program between older and younger students, and a public safety initiative prompted by the dangers of a steep hill leading up to one of the teachers' schools. After five days of sharing ideas and learning together, participants were refreshed and inspired to take on new challenges. One noted, "Before this week, I didn't [believe] that I could learn through doing projects. But [this experience] proves that I am wrong."