Agile collaborative learning - Opening the IT & business career door.

Developing an Agile Education Outreach Community: The 5 Saturdays Program

By: Dave Cornelius, DM

Introduction

One of the amazing things in life is to be able to serve others, especially when there is an opportunity to bring about hope in the present and future. The 5 Saturdays Program’s vision is designed to empower high school students (14 to 19 years of age) to pursue a career in the science, technology, engineering, agile, and math (STEAM) fields. Some people in the education field use the “A” to mean art. The 5 Saturdays view is that “A” stands for agile. We believe agility is the key to helping students experience learning in a collaborative projected-based format as members of a micro team. The motto is “Learn fast through experiments and iterate toward success.”  The attitude toward failure during the 5 Saturdays workshops is used as a learning opportunity to help students grow in confidence and not be ashamed, since new concepts present challenges and uncertainty. Although the program is focused on high school students, we have applied the same concepts and techniques with 11- to 13-year-old students and achieved success.

The program does not use teachers in the traditional sense but works with industry professionals to act as learning facilitators to run the 5 Saturdays workshops. The learning facilitators are trained with the same curriculum used in the student workshops.  In this way, they are prepared to lead the student workshops.  The program is six weeks long, encompassing seven Saturdays. The first and last Saturdays are the introduction and award days respectively. The second through the sixth Saturdays are the core 5 Saturdays, where the students and learning facilitators engage in learning experiences that includes agile project management, technology, lean business, job readiness, and effective communications. Each workshop is four and a half hours in duration.

The Curriculum and Program

The 5 Saturdays Program and curriculum are built on lean thinking and agile practices. Our programs are collaborative and project-based learning that are central to help develop life skills to improve communications capability and innovative and critical thinking. The 5 Saturdays Program is designed to allow students from challenging environments to attend the workshops free of charge. There should be no barriers to obtaining the STEAM knowledge and exposure that can make a difference for the students’ future. The 5 Saturdays Program applies the principles of empathy and understanding with a focus on the students’ needs to encourage change and provide hope.

The curriculum is composed of 1) lean business startup and innovation, 2) mobile app development, 3) websites with WordPress, 4) 3D design and printing (new), and 5) job readiness and effective communications. Most of the course content is available online at the https://5saturdays.org website. Anyone can register to take the course at no charge globally.

Building Strategic Partnerships

The key to a successful nonprofit initiative is to establish sustainable partnerships with industry organizations and businesses. The strategic partnerships help to amplify the 5 Saturdays brand and tap into a network of qualified individuals who contribute to the success of the program. Assessing the partnership for shared vision and values helps to ensure a sustainable relationship. The relationship should always answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) so that the partnership is value driven.

The partnership with Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance have been fundamental to the 5 Saturdays program because of the agile practices emphasis. The foundation of the 5 Saturdays program is built on agile values and principles. Our key business partnerships include Experis, Project Insights, Technossus, Neudesic, and KnolShare.org.

The program is delivered to high school students at Early College High School (ECHS), a public high school in Costa Mesa, California, and the Boys & Girls Club of Central Orange Coast. The relationship with ECHS began with Principal Dr. David Martinez, who is passionate about supporting his students by providing them with every available advantage. The latest partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Orange Coast, opens the door to middle and high school students.

Recruiting Industry Leaders and Practitioners

We recruit industry leaders and practitioners to participate in the 5 Saturdays Program to function as learning facilitators. Each recruit is asked to do the following:

  • Be a servant leader.
  • Practice collaborative and project-based learning.
  • Work in a team of two to five facilitators.
  • Advocate for empowering students via innovation & agility.
  • Complete the 5 Saturdays online training.
  • Attend an eight-hour face-to-face training.
  • Participate in at least four Saturdays as a learning facilitator.

The learning facilitators’ return on investments (ROI) are immeasurable, as they observe the students transform into confident individuals armed with skills in agility, technology, and lean business. At the conclusion of the 5 Saturdays workshops, learning facilitators are able to:

  1. Provide guidance to students so they can develop a resume and interviewing skills.
  2. Demonstrate leadership and communications skills.
  3. Collaborate with team members to develop a self-organized project.
  4. Excel in a project-based environment.
  5. Grasp agile and technology concepts.
  6. Increase personal confidence to succeed.
  7. Leverage new skills that are transferable to community and work activities.
  8. Claim professional development credits (PDUs or SEUs).

Engaging High School Students

In the 5 Saturdays workshops, students receive learning experiences that open the door to a career in technology and business. The STEAM program emphasizes agile project-based learning that encourages students to embrace self-directed innovations in technology or lean business. Students work in small teams to develop a website, mobile application, or a concept for a new business. The students are equipped with skills in job readiness and effective communications so that they are able to find a job after the program.

At the conclusion of the 5 Saturdays workshops, students are able to:

  1. Develop a resume along with interviewing skills.
  2. Demonstrate leadership and communications skills.
  3. Collaborate with team members to develop a self-organized project.
  4. Excel in a project-based environment.
  5. Grasp agile and technology concepts.
  6. Increase personal confidence to succeed.
  7. Leverage new skills that are transferable to high school, college, and work activities.

Developing the Federated Global Model

The long-term vision of the 5 Saturdays Program is to be global reaching with partners delivering the 5 Saturdays STEAM program to local students in need. The 5 Saturdays value is to help others to achieve excellence. That is why our courses are free to those who plan to pay it forward by giving their time and resources to help others improve skills and knowledge in the STEAM field.

The following are the tenets that enable a successful satellite 5 Saturdays Program:

  • Create a vision to guide the program.
  • Make the experience about the students.
  • Work with your nonprofit partner to recruit students.
  • Define achievable goals.
  • Determine what success look like.
  • Leverage the 5 Saturdays curriculum and program guidelines.

Summary

The learning facilitators, students, and 5 Saturdays leaders witness changed lives through the six-week journey in the workshops. Students transform from a shy and unsure attitude and blossom into confident individuals capable of effective communication and collaboration. Learning facilitators are challenged to lead workshops and use skills that are not part of the everyday tool belt. In the workshops, the language of business, technology, and agility is spoken fluently; leadership attributes are demonstrated; and agile skills are practiced.   At the conclusion of the 5 Saturdays workshops, we see people who have grown beyond where they started. The 5 Saturdays experience is shared on the https://5saturdays.org website.