Elmbrook plans for new Innovation Collaboratory for real world exposure

Ravina Sachdev, Reporter

Among the numerous endeavors by the Elmbrook School Board to improve the curriculum and increase learning opportunities for its 7,000 students is the new Innovation Collaboratory in fall of 2017. According to Dr. Dana Monogue, Assistant Superintendent of Elmbrook Schools District,

“[Our mission is to] develop relationships with business, industry and higher education partners so the learning experiences of our students are relevant, challenging, and meaningful,” said Dr. Dana Monogue, Assistant Superintendent of Elmbrook Schools District. “We want to make sure we are affording Elmbrook students with every opportunity and advantage while they are with us, so we started researching what other top-tier school districts across the country are doing at the high school level, particularly for junior and senior students. That research got us connected to a district in Overland Park, Kansas, the Blue Valley School District.”

After observing the methods of this select district, Elmbrook Schools was motivated to start a program that prepares students for college and beyond “through real-world team-based project-driven learning.” The main incentive of this program is for students to pursue their genuine interests and learn more about the careers in their field by working and learning hands on. Not only will students apply their learning, they will also sharpen their professional skills by working in groups and communicating with others for a common cause. Students will often work in groups rather than individually which is where ¨Collaboratory¨ comes from in the title of this program. Students will no doubt be collaborating and putting forth ideas to help fix problems and profess their knowledge. University and business leaders feel that our local industries are in dire need of talented students that overlook their community and begin their career in another area.

“There is a concerted effort in our area to retain, develop, and nurture talent in the greater Milwaukee area,” Dr. Monogue said. “We are excited to be part of the solution to this concern.”

Not only will students benefit from the many learning components in the Innovation Collaboratory program, but they will serve the needs of the Elmbrook partners which eventually gives back to the stability and economic health of the community. This system will also help students secure internships with local businesses and will increase the acceptance of students by certain colleges associated with this program.

According to Dr. Dana Monogue, these are the core five principles of the Innovation Collaboratory system:

  1. Profession-based Learning – Our instructors develop real-world, project-based learning strategies through collaborations with business and community partners. These interactions enhance the learning experience, preparing students for college and career.
  2. Professional Skills Development – Our students’ experiences allow them to develop transformative professional skills such as understanding expectations, time and project management and other essential business values. These skills are critical to providing students a competitive advantage in their post-secondary education and professional careers.
  3. Self-Discovery and Exploration – Our students will realize their strengths and passions by exploring and experiencing potential professions. This allows them to make informed decisions about their future.
  4. Entrepreneurial Mindset – Our instructors will create an environment where creative thinking and problem solving is encouraged. An innovative culture is key to fostering entrepreneurial learning and design thinking.  Every Innovation Collaboratory student learns the foundations of entrepreneurialism and is provided mentorship and guidance through their project work.
  5. Responsiveness – We support high-skill, high-demand careers through ongoing innovation in curriculum development, programs and services based on local business and community needs.

The Innovation Collaboratory students will have the option of attending a morning or afternoon class at the Innovation Collaboratory building (which is not yet finalized). Each student will have either 2 or 3 instructors and they will not only instruct according to specific courses, but will lead  students through real world projects put forth by associated businesses.

Participants are required to dress professionally since the environment focuses on polishing the business skills of the students. It is clear that this program is unlike any other, since most of the learning comes from the actual experience.

“[The Innovation Collaboratory] hopes to enroll as many students as possible in its first year,” Dr. Monogue said.  “We are launching with three strands:  Global Business, Business Analytics, and Future Teachers.  We’d be really happy to have at least 25 students in each strand for a total of 75.”

Innovation Collaboratory is not a traditional class environment where the teacher simply stands at the front of the room and instructs. Students are pushed to use real world skills and apply them through collaborating and problem solving with business professionals. This background is crucial in preparing students for real world issues that they are guaranteed to encounter.