Networked Improvement Community Share-out Series: Three Questions with Catherine Villnave and Kristian Breton

August 24, 2016

Over the course of four webinars, partners from the 100Kin10 Networked Improvement Community will share their work exploring a different facet of improving K-12 engineering and what they’ve learned in the process. A collaborative approach to running experiments, the Networked Improvement Community enables organizations to develop and test practical solutions to problems under a shared topic area.

Here we introduce partners Catherine Villnave from Baltimore City Public Schools and Kristian Breton from the New York Academy of Sciences, who will kick off the series by discussing the ideas they’ve developed to bring corporate volunteers into the classroom. Watch a recording of the webinar here.

Why did you join the Networked Improvement Community?
Kristian Breton (New York Academy of Sciences):
I joined because I know that 100Kin10 has partners that are beyond my local community - I thought it would be a helpful way for me to learn what others are doing. For engineering, I wanted to enhance what we offer in that subject, and rather than rely on my own research I wanted to learn directly from others.

Catherine Villnave (Baltimore City Public Schools):
We thought collaborating with likeminded people who are doing similar work across the country would allow us to leverage the lessons we learned to create a more successful program on the local level.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the Networked Improvement Community so far?
There’ve been many. I was reminded of how wide apart the circles of youth development and STEM corporations are. While we both have some intentions and goals that overlap, the area of overlap is smaller than either of us wants it to be. Figuring out how to make it work is a challenge, and one of the reasons why there are so many of us working on it. There’s no silver bullet.

Other organizations that are similarly situated are wrestling with some of the same issues, and there is no magic bullet out there. There’s work to be done to improve not only the engineering options out there but how professionals (whether they be teachers, engineers or STEM enthusiasts) work together to move the ball forward in this field.

What’s one piece of advice you have for partners who are looking to bring corporate volunteers into the classroom?
Be definitive about what you’re asking for. Define the time, the location, and what exactly volunteers will be doing.

Get to know your corporate social responsibility partner before you ask for anything. Before you go in and say, “Hey, we have this opportunity,” - go in and learn what it is their company is looking to do, what are their interests and goals, what kind of time are you able to provide? That will help make sure it’s a good match for both you and the corporation.

Are you a partner interested in learning more? Register here to join the webinar on September 15th.