I love this time of year. Enrollment opened on Monday for TAFâ€™s TechStart After-School Program and the steady stream of families bringing in their applications is heartening, to say the least. Seeing the familiar faces of our returning students and families has definitely ramped up the excitement for the coming school year here at the office. Itâ€™s a real reminder of one of the impacts we are making in the community â€“ that is, our families see TechStart as so valuable, that they are rushing in to sign up early and bringing along their neighbors, younger siblings, and schoolmates to join, too. Nearly half of our Seattle classes are full after only 3 days of open enrollment. Yep, I definitely love this time of the year. Â
Another of my favorite times is the rare occasion when I get to substitute as a TechStart teacher (this is not an invitation to call in sick, teachers!). Being in the classroom with our bright, eager kids is so inspiring and a real, front lines kind of confirmation that we are definitely doing right by them. Seeing the students experiment and create animations in the MIT developed program Scratch, for example, or watching them troubleshoot their robotâ€™s program in Lego Mindstorms. I mean, forget the numbers and statistics (for a moment, at least) and imagine Marcutio, one of our Southern Heights Elementary students, plugging away at his Scratch project â€“ a dynamic depiction of the human muscular system. Marcutio raised his hand and said, â€œMs. Johnson, Iâ€™m done.â€ Hmmm, I thought. There are two weeks left in this project and heâ€™s done? After a quick conversation and tutorial on a new technique, he was off and running again, now furiously working to improve his project that just five minutes ago was â€œdone.â€ Thatâ€™s the power of the technology tools we use like Scratch, Alice (a 3D design program), and Lego Mindstorms (robotics) â€“ they are nearly limitless in their ability to allow each student to advance. Combine that with our Project Based Learning approach to curriculum and dynamic teachers and you have a recipe for success.
Seriously, getting Marcutio to dive back in and work to improve his supposedly finished project was that easy? Yeah, it really was. Donâ€™t get me wrong â€“ itâ€™s still a challenge to get every kid to have an experience like his, but itâ€™s one that our exceptional teachers, curriculum team, and staff gladly accept. Who am I kidding? I love every part of the TechStart year.