As I mentioned in an earlier post about meeting our community partner (click here to catch up!), one of the most important components of Project Based Learning (PBL) is the community partner. Having an excited and dedicated community partner takes a project from just good to outstanding. Our community partner for the Museum project is Spear Corporation whose main job is designing, building, and maintaining commercial aquatics facilities. They build waterparks, splash pads, and even pools for the Olympic Trials. In partnering with them, Courtenay and I hoped to create a project based on the science of water.
Picture via: spearcorp.com
This past Friday, Courtenay brought her 2nd grade students to the Spear Corporation headquarters for a tour and explanation of what they do everyday. I could only be there for an hour because I had class, but the hour that I was there was fantastic. Courtenay’s class got off the bus, and I could feel their excitement about exploring a new place and finding out what this whole project thing would be about.
To start the day, Tim had all of the students sit in their employee training room to teach them a little bit about what Spear Corporation does. He started off by explaining the purpose of the room which is there to act as a classroom for employees to learn and expand on their knowledge. The students thought it was incredibly cool that the adults at the company still sit down and learn just like them. He then used a slideshow filled with pictures to show them all the work they do. He started with a splash pad, and everyone was so excited to see something they had all heard of and/or have used in the past. This opened a flood of questions such as “how do you get all the water there?” and “how long does it take you to build all of this stuff?” Courtenay and I sat in the back beaming at how curious and excited the students were from the start.
Tim then showed them a series of pictures of his team constructing one of the pools for the 2016 summer Olympics trials. The students were in awe of the size of the pool and how different an Olympic-sized swimming pool is from a local splash pad. Tim answered all of their questions and detailed all of the time and effort their teams put into creating a quality product. He told them that the company always “strives to do quality work” and that everyone should always be working hard at what they do each and every day.
After time in the classroom, we all got to go on a tour of their main office and the warehouse. I could tell how intentional everyone at Spear Corp was about including the students and making sure they had facts and demonstrations to help them in learning about the aquatics industry. They even set one of their large forklifts to the height of an Olympic dive pool! Each time Tim or another staff member showed the students something new, I could feel their excitement growing.
In the warehouse, Tim showed them all of the chemicals and large pieces they store for building and maintaining the facilities they build. They had one of the massive pool vacuums set up and showed them how you can control the vacuum with a remote control to clean up dirty things that might fall into the water. The students asked how the vacuums could do underwater and where all of the dirt went once it was sucked up. These may not sound like very interesting questions, but the way the students stayed engaged and asked genuine questions was extremely uplifting and proves how important having a community partner expert can be in getting students excited about PBL.
My personal favorite part of the tour was the look into their training room where employees have the chance to practice using equipment. They had a small, two-tank system set up to mimic how a larger sized pool drains and moves through the filter. A small, automatic pool vacuum swam around in the larger tank, so the students could see one in action. I think that was probably their favorite part of the tour as well. They had loads of questions about how the water drains, why pools have to be cleaned so often, what the difference between a salt-water and chlorine pool was, and many, many more. They even had an entire wall that connected machines to monitor the status of some of the facilities they work to keep clean. The owners of the various facilities can rest easy knowing that the Spear team keeps an eye on the status of their products.
To finish up, Tim showed the students the special workbench they have set up for employees to practice new techniques and problem-solve real-world problems they encounter on the job. The students asked what exactly that meant. Tim explained how sometimes their technicians run into problems with a part that they just cannot figure out. Instead of panicking or doing a poor job, they bring the problem back to headquarters and work together to find the best solution. He really emphasized the importance of teamwork everyday and how they are able to be so successful because they always work as a team.
After the field trip, I know the students are eager to find out what happens next on their PBL journey, and I am too! Courtenay and Tim will be launching the project in the classroom within the next couple of weeks, and I cannot wait to see all of the creativity and passion from the students. By going to Spear Corp and meeting with Tim and everyone who works there, the students know who they are working with and how important it is that they work together to make an amazing project. If all PBL classrooms and schools started with a trip to meet the community partner and see where they work/live, it would make the experience that much more authentic and would give the students a chance to form connections between community service and education. I’ll have another update soon about the launch, and I can’t wait to share all of the excitement with everyone! Comment below if you have any specific topics you want to hear about in the launch party post!