Always looking to grow in our understanding of new education practices and the changes taking place, we here at Carney Sandoe (CS&A) have been energized by the trends we see happening in independent schools. We have had a long-standing culture of trying to improve and adapt as a company in our 40 years, and we have seen the trends of 21st century education – typified by design thinking, project based learning, the maker movement, experiential learning, and social-emotional learning – as parallel to our own attempts to reflect and change our age old practices. At our annual company retreat each September (which we call the Summit), and over the course of the past two decades, we have found ourselves most excited when we’re been assigned books written by Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, and Jim Collins. Each year, we try to look to use the lessons from these readings internally.
I work specifically with Physics, STEM, Design, and Maker Placement here at CS&A, an area in which we've seen a tremendous amount of growth and change over the past few years, and it's something near and dear to me. Having grown up and attended a public school in Upstate New York, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take part in the Project Lead the Way Program as a student. I was exposed to engineering courses early in my high school career, and found a love for working with 3D printers, designing in CAD, and troubleshooting logic gates. It’s been exciting to see something that made a huge difference in my life as a student truly grow and gain traction, and I’ve been particularly energized to have an opportunity to be on the front line of CS&A’s efforts to help recruit more maker candidates for schools.
In the past 4 years, we've seen a lot of change on the STEM and Maker Space front in particular. From a recent survey, sent to our core client schools, we found that 50 % of our client schools have at least one faculty member responsible for leading the initiative on the Maker Space front. Also, the number of “Director of Teaching and Learning,” “STEM Director,” and “Innovation in Teaching and Learning” jobs has exploded in recent years, from only working on 1-2 of them a year a few years ago to working on closer to 25-40 per year in the past two years. So, it’s clear to us that the commitment to changing teaching and learning practices is there, and that the pace of that change is quickening. Often times, these maker spaces have been funded by special gifts and grants from philanthropists, board members, alumni, or parents, and those donors have frequently experienced first-hand the benefit of a dynamic and cutting edge education in STE(A)M or other 21st century education practices.
As any growing area, there are pioneers in the field and trailblazers. Initially, we found that maker spaces were being overseen by the technology personnel in the school. As the grants came in, in a new area which wasn't a point of emphasis for training and programming in educators fully, schools did their best to adapt and technology candidates were the initial hires in these areas, or the ones who took on the additional duties in this space. Part of this had to do with knowledge of equipment, but also an understanding and ability to work in an interdisciplinary focus. Over the past few years though this focus, although it hasn't entirely disappeared, has been transferred. Schools are now looking across a range of backgrounds, and real-world experience is something they're open to. Much like the emphasis of Traverse on design-thinking and preparing our students for the real-world to be problem solvers and innovators, as well as team-players, schools are shifting more and more to considering candidates from these backgrounds for these positions and opening their minds to these candidates. Candidates who worked as engineers for many years, but had a passion for teaching their colleagues, working in teams, being innovative, and working across disciplines, are one area that comes to mind. Independent schools have always had an openness and flexibility to a "non-traditional" candidate, but in this growing area where the needs aren't totally being met by graduate programs and education programs, schools are having to think outside of the box as well for who they're hiring.
In trying to come up with more tangible numbers, I took a look at CS&A’s data over the past decade in STEM and Maker Space, areas closely linked with design thinking and experiential education practices, and the results are striking. In 2015, we saw more than 6 times as many maker space and STEM positions listed than all the years leading up to 2012. For 2016, it looks like our final position number will be closer to 7-8 times the number of positions we saw in these areas up to 2012. So it seems clear to us that, like Chinese positions did about a decade ago, these maker space/innovation positions are exploding. Having STEAM Labs, Tinker labs, FABlabs, design studios, iLabs, Maker Spaces, and faculty and staff that are committed to design thinking are no longer the exception that they were 4 years ago, they've become the norm.
One of the most common requests we hear from hiring schools is that they're looking for people who are passionate about this work, and can be "pied pipers" in their community. While specific skills are great, and a knowledge and background with the equipment is always helpful and important, the real need is for people who embody what the Maker Space is designed to foster - problem solvers, innovators, practical skills, and team-players. This can be more difficult than finding someone with a Master’s degree in Physics. The opportunities are there, and students need these leaders - who is going to answer the call, is it you?
Carney Sandoe is a lead sponsor of Traverse, and we thank them for their commitment to finding and supporting innovative educators.
Traverse IDEAS are curated by members of the Traverse community: featured speakers, expedition guides, partners, and attendees passionate about preparing a new generation of innovators and problem-solvers.
Traverse 16 is for innovative educators. Happening in Boulder June 6-8, 2016, participants will connect, explore, and experience new ways of teaching and learning firsthand.