D and E Maker Mitchell Partners with MOSAIC
“Is this really going to happen?” was the question asked by Studio 3 students at MOSAIC Elementary School in the Mehlville School District last fall as they worked on concepts for an outdoor classroom with Design and Entrepreneurship (D&E) facilitator Albie Mitchell. They were the key contributors to both the concepts and design of the space and were curious if this would be more than a “project on paper”. This past chilly weekend, their ideas came to life as the first phase of construction was completed on MOSAIC’s campus.
Dr. Scott Clark, MOSAIC’s principal, was introduced to Mitchell by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dave Baker when the school was preparing to open. Dr. Baker has championed the use of our D&E resources and lab space by partner districts and felt the assistance of our program could support MOSAIC’s commitment to creating curricular paths with real world applications. “It’s almost crucial that we stay involved with South Tech,” said Clark. Research abounds about the importance of including real world applications while teaching to enhance meaning, increase engagement, and bring excitement to learning. South Tech’s programs are uniquely suited to offer partner district teachers opportunities to do so.
The idea for an outdoor classroom was championed by two MOSAIC teachers, Katie Lakebrink and Christy Huettenmeyer. Mitchell assisted them over the first semester of 2017 by leading their students through a design process that included analyzing and cataloging what would be included in the space. “I selected a lot of examples for them to consider and we worked through what they responded to,” he said. He then created a site plan from which the final blueprints of the classroom were created. “The authenticity of the project helped to engage students on a high level that empowered them to research and plan the best course of action for the outdoor space. We are very thankful for the expertise Albie and his students provided,” said Lakebrink.
During the design phase, Mitchell applied for and was awarded a $5000 Toolbox for Education grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement. He decided the outdoor classroom project, which would impact student learning for years to come, was the best investment of the donation. He divided the grant into two parts: half went toward purchasing the construction materials required and the other half went to tools and safety equipment the D&E program needed to help execute the project.
Last spring, Mitchell’s students helped the MOSAIC’s Studio 3 classes kick-off construction of the project using birdhouses that were installed in the future classroom space. Our students each created their own design, then put together three kits with pre-cut materials and instructions and assisted the elementary students with assembly. Ameer Alzahabi, a current senior from Parkway West who helped with the project, really enjoyed the experience. “It was their first time working with many of the tools they needed and there was a lot to learn,” he said of the 3rd graders. He also found them entertaining saying, “I also liked how they were having these long discussions about their painting plan. They made a plan, and then just totally abandoned it once they got started!” But, he added, the more people you work with the more likely that is to happen. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the project again,” he said.
D&E students fabricated the bulk of the planter boxes for the vertical garden wall earlier this fall. Garrett Lamb, a Mehlville High School junior, put in additional work by volunteering his time on the job site where he built more planter boxes, mixed concrete, and dug trenches for the garden wall posts. Lamb was pleased with all the work accomplished Saturday saying “Everybody was trying to get things done and we kept a great pace.”
Lamb and Alzahabi have both gained a new understanding of entrepreneurship from the D&E program. “I always thought it was just about starting your own business and that you had to have a plan or product,” said Alzahabi, “but there are different types. There are so many more options.” Lamb has enjoyed the lectures and trips and learning the process of planning, producing, and pitching ideas. The real life applications of what he’s learning are particularly interesting and he “finds it fascinating.” Both students are considering related courses of study in college; Alahazabi is considering engineering and digital design and Lamb is leaning towards marketing.
Mitchell and South Tech principal Jake Lohse also joined the crew of volunteers who completed the vertical wall and seating construction on Saturday. Planting the wall, installation of two rain gardens and hardscape spaces will be added to the outdoor classroom in the spring. Lakebrink summarized the collaboration saying, “Working with Albie and the South Tech students was a wonderful experience for our Studio 3 students at MOSAIC. Collaborating, planning, sharing ideas and working together to create the outdoor classroom space truly made this project one to remember! We can’t wait to use the outdoor classroom to learn more about ecology.”
To see a time-lapse video of last Saturday’s construction, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y8pWsVdsRw&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0QN-XBp_6vhJnyKLngsXNknccUGjRRe_FseOT9x7SEPDn_sAaVs2vf9R8 .
To learn more about the Design & Entrepreneurship program, visit http://southtechnical.org/programs/. Applications for next Fall are now being accepted.