a day in the life...

Tuesday, 7:48am - Bag slung around her shoulder, iPad Pro in hand, Corean darts into school knowing that her team started work eight minutes ago.  She is the Project Manager on this particular assignment - research and develop an alternative solution to water diversion for the Poudre River System in northern Colorado and present that solution to Brian Warner, the head of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.  They have three weeks to complete the proposal and today was the kick off meeting - they have (or should we say had) an hour and 15 minutes to get started before the school day starts.

She knows that some of the essential competencies to successfully executing the project manager role are communication, problem solving, leadership and time management.  Knowing she just broke the latter, she acknowledges it to the team with sincere apology and then dives in to an inquiry dreamstorm.  If they are going to get this proposal right, they know they better ask the right questions.


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9:00am - All packed up, a coffee in hand from the school coffee shop (operated by students, for students with the help of Prodigy Ventures - a local apprenticeship program), Corean heads up the hallway to the “Donut” - a round room with half circles of bean bags facing each other.  Outsiders might call this a classroom, but Corean doesn’t.  It’s just one of the many places she is expected to learn.  She likes it because she can see the faces of her classmates and interact with them in a natural way - the way that she might in the boardroom when she owns her own engineering firm.

The guide for this learning Mash-UP is Ms. Lewis, who is intimately engaged with Max, probably talking about the connections of the Harlem Renaissance to the maker movement.  Everyone knows that Ms. Lewis loves to build things, not the least of which is building relationships with students.  She always has - it’s part of what makes her such a great instructor.  She doesn’t just teach, she acts, she makes, she “does.”  Soon enough, Mr. Stephens pushes the play button on a fabulous video detailing the social impact of W.E.B Du Bois.

Corean absolutely loves this learning experience.  It’s a six week “double wide” and meaningfully mashes up American Literature and US History - specifically studying W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes and Tupac Shakur.  Corean is fascinated not only with the profound lyrics of Hughes and 2Pac, but also of the history - her history, that she rarely touched upon before the CUBE. 


10:45am - Corean barely notices, but she has become skilled in the practice of deep breathing.  It wasn’t always that way.  She used to find herself stressed out of her mind, barely finding time for sleep or her own well being.  Now, she has learned the art of careful breathing in this wellness session called “breathless” - based on fascinating science intersecting breath and learning.  It’s a time she loves as it allows her to take a moment for herself, to collect her thoughts and to download information from the previous expo.  Good thing too.  


She was blown away by the tag-team teaching approach from Mr. Stephens and Ms. Lewis - artfully crafting a learning experience as insightful as it was powerful.  To think that Hughes’ “I too am America” and Tupac’s “Hail Mary” created an intense intersection of black social activism that she had never been exposed to before.  Corean couldn’t wait to start her poetry project - she was thinking of delivering it as a ‘slam’ at the public exhibition at the end of the block, pushing herself outside of boundaries and trying something new.  She had seen Denver’s Award winning Slam Nuba perform at a school community night.  As she drew in her breath, she thought, “now it’s my turn.”


11:30am - It’s 20 minutes into the “Fluid Dynamics” Mash-Up.  This one and a half hour block is an interdisciplinary intersection of physics, math, and Human Centered Design.  (this is the Mash-Up that includes the water project - the one for which Corean was late to school this morning.)  Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Robinson facilitate a discussion looking at why it’s important to do empathy interviews with water engineers who are trying to figure out the logistics of a dam on one of Colorado’s last free flowing rivers.   When the population of Colorado’s front range is supposed to double by 2050 and water is one of the most critical resources in the west, this was supposed to be a live discussion, but something was missing.  

Corean thought to herself, “turns out I do need to use math in the real world.”  She knew she would be calculating rates of change on CFS (cubic feet per second) for the Poudre in different seasons, based on upstream flows - components necessary to designing the size and strength of the dam.  Still, she thought she better advocate for herself and fellow students by letting Mr. H know that they needed to connect the project to why it’s important for students - now, in 2019.


1:15pm - Wiping her fingers clean from a healthy lunch provided by a local chef, who is teaching some students about the culinary arts, Corean looks for her tribe - at some schools they call it advisory - where she finds contentment in authentic self and the connection to others.  Ever since the first two week block of school, when a team of local community leaders led them through the “who am I?” curriculum, she has felt a true bond with her tribe.  Her tribe is a unique tapestry of strong young women - a third generation Hispanic from Swansea, a pastor’s daughter from Globeville, a refugee from Eritrea - they represent Denver.  Spending time with them is an essential part of her week.


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1:30pm - The entire community is sitting in the school Commons- a circle necessary to the functioning of the school.  Usually Mr. P leads the circle, but today, there is a guest speaker (Mr. Luis Duarte) from the Quarterly Forum, a powerful group of leaders in Denver who are working to catalyze social entrepreneurship as a way to engage youth in transforming Denver into a world class city.  He is dynamic and fun.  “He is like us,” Corean thinks to herself.


1:45pm - Whereas “math toolkits” was first in her day on Monday, it’s an afternoon block today.  Corean understands though.  Because studies on adolescent brain research show that teenagers learn math better in the morning, the CUBE tries to make sure that all students take “toolkits” in the morning at least a couple days a week.  “Toolkits” (similar to Summit Schools Basecamp) is one of the few expos at the CUBE that is almost exclusively one subject.  


3:00 - While some students have independent work time, Tuesday is Corean’s reflection day with an advisor and project mentor. She works with her advisor and mentor using the Essential Skills and Dispositions Framework as a constant formative assessment to track learning outcomes in her expos.

Whereas most schools tell students what they will learn at the beginning of school or beginning of a class, Corean loves this time because she is learning the necessary skills of self-awareness, analysis of process over product and student agency.  She knows that by the end of the year, she will have a diverse array of incredible knowledge, skills and dispositions from which she can tackle challenges to dynamic problems in an ever-changing world - all wrapped up in a customized, personalized transcript that encompasses her learning.

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4:00 - Off and running, Corean goes straight to the “brain” - the nickname for the quiet, all glass, library space on the third floor reserved for students looking for a focused place to work on projects.  Before she heads home at 5:30, she wants to get a head start on her poetry slam.  


5:30 - Right before walking out the door to catch the light rail back to her neighborhood, Corean ran into Eliza, Jose and Blake, who were on their way to “Bridge Building” - an internal/external Mash-Up co-taught by Mr. Meeker (a math teacher and former structural engineer) and Dwight Pullen and the Society of Black Engineers.

The mash-up is at the Denver University Engineering School and is one of the most popular evening mash-ups offered at the CUBE.  Not only do students get to interact with college professors and everyday engineers, but they are also getting to compete in the state-wide bridge building competition.  

Corean sees them off with a hug and heads home for dinner.