Welcome to "The Future": How an Industry + Educator Partnership Led to Career-Ready Experiences for Students
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How an Industry + Educator Partnership Led to Career-Ready Experiences for Students
Watch a video about Mike and his students’ experience collaborating with NAC on The Future 2.0.
I met Mike Wierusz in 2012 at the Green Schools National Conference in Denver, Colorado. Mike is a teacher at Inglemoor High School in Washington State’s Northshore School District. He teaches engineering and technology courses that focus on product, building, and system design. During his conference seminar it was hard not to notice his enthusiasm for, and commitment to, his students’ educational experience.
I was so impressed with Mike that after the conference I continued to keep tabs on him and what he was up to, and later that year I had the opportunity to reconnect with him in a different capacity. Mike’s teaching program was quickly gaining momentum, and rapidly outgrowing its home in the Northshore School District’s Secondary Academy for Success. To give Mike the room he needed and make his courses accessible to a larger student population, the District decided to relocate his classroom to a space inside Inglemoor High School. NAC was already working at Inglemoor on a science room remodel, so Mike reached out to me about upgrading an old drafting room on campus into his future classroom. It was important for the changes to adequately support the unique needs of his Inglemoor Design/Engineering/Architecture (IDEA) program. We both quickly recognized that this was more than just a classroom renovation; it was an opportunity to involve students in an authentic, project-based learning experience.
Photo by Chloe Jarvis
Mike selected three students from his class who were interested in architecture, and the classroom renovation would be their capstone project. Together with Mike and NAC, the goals of the project were outlined:
  1. Separate the room into five zones that correspond with each step in the design process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.
  2. Be industry relevant (CTE/STEM)
  3. Address 21st century learning needs
  4. Generate creativity
  5. Be an environmental teaching tool
The students brought a wealth of ideas to the project and, with the help of NAC, these ideas were refined and incorporated into the final design.
The result is a student-centered instructional space that was aptly named “The Future.” As Mike describes, it is more than the traditional classroom. “The Future creates a dynamic, 21st century learning experience where students are free to explore their passions, and I can act more as a mentor and facilitator guiding them through hands-on problem solving.”
The physical design of the room serves as a visual cue to encourage students to take ownership and guide their own learning in this space.
In the spring of 2015, I worked with Mike again as a mentor for a group of his students that were entering a local High School of the Future competition. They researched, designed, and built a Revit model of a STEM-based high school, culminating in a video submission. Their entry won the competition.
Mike’s passion for helping his students gain hands-on experience in the fields they are interested in, as well as his dedication to continuing his own education, led to the development of his Educator in Residence program. Each year, Mike and a select group of his students spend time collaborating with design firms, working on real-world projects in a professional setting.
In the summer of 2015, Mike and four of his students completed a three-week internship at NAC’s Seattle office, called “The Future 2.0.” Similar to the collaboration that took place to design Mike’s instructional space at Inglemoor, this internship took the idea one step further and gave students the chance to work directly with our Mt. Si High School team to assist in the conceptualization and design of the school’s new career and technical education (CTE) space. Mike and his students received in-office mentorship and training from experienced architects on a variety of subjects that included hand sketching, Revit modeling, presentation skills, and career development. It was a unique opportunity for the students to use their experience in Mike’s classroom to provide ideas on how the learning environment and curriculum would best fit together in Mt. Si’s makerspace. Furthermore, it provided NAC with valuable insight into the perceptions and priorities of contemporary learners and teachers
The final design direction for Mt. Si’s CTE space largely reflects the concepts developed by Mike and his students. The team was able to use their own experiences in Mike’s classroom to help design a cutting-edge, project-based educational environment for future Mt. Si learners. The students will carry these skills with them as they take the next steps toward their careers. Mike, in turn, will return to his classroom with even more experience to help guide and inspire his next generation of STEM students.
Mike is the type of educator who looks beyond the classroom to create a unique educational experience for his students. He recognizes that learning does not stop when the last school bell rings, and that his students’ success will rely on their drive and enthusiasm to grow and succeed. “For me,” Mike explained, “the future of education would be one where our central mission is to develop life-long learners.”
Welcome to the future, Mike.
Mike Wierusz is an educator, innovator, and dreamer in his sixth year of teaching at the Northshore School District’s Inglemoor High School. His IDEA courses are centered around sustainable product, building, and system design, with a mission to develop sympathetic and curious visionaries who continue on to make a positive contribution to the world. His passion and dedication to STEM curriculum and his affinity for sustainable design that connects humans with nature have earned him various awards and recognition, including being named a 2014 Allen Distinguished Educator by the Allen Institute.
Watch the full-length version of the The Future 2.0.