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The Power of an IDEA

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Guest Author: Kellye Crockett, Founding Director, Dan & Cassidy Towriss IDEA Space KC

Carson can freehand draw a map of any continent, label each country and pinpoint its capital.  

Carson is ten years old. 

When he walked through the doors of the Dan and Cassidy Towriss IDEA Space KC in July 2022, he told us that drawing maps is what he loves more than anything. What Carson didn’t know was the word cartography. He’d never heard that word or anything about the profession of map making. He had no idea about Agilities or what it would take to go from loving maps to growing into someone who could use his skills and talents to build a life of economic prosperity. He learned all that, and more, during a week at IDEA Space.

Powered and supported by The Barstow School, IDEA Space is an innovative new K-12 STEAM learning center on State Line Road in Leawood, Kansas. It’s a place where all area students have consistent and ongoing STEAM learning experiences early in their educational path to grow their comfort and confidence in any STEAM field they wish to pursue.

Carson came to IDEA Space through a partnership with Grandview C-4 School District. Grandview purchased an IDEA Space summer course for each student who succeeded in attending 90% or more of the district’s summer school program. Carson participated in “Invent it! Engineering Edition,” with 19 other elementary students from across Kansas City. In one challenge, they designed machines to help clean up trash from our oceans. Carson, ever the map maker, took a slightly different approach. He designed a system to categorize where and how the machines would track the location of ocean trash instead. 

Carson is one of hundreds of students to discover IDEA Space in just the first three months; thousands more are yet to come. Students of all ages have fun, hands-on learning experiences in the 32,000 square feet of our Makerspace, Technology Lab, Fabrication Workshop, Incubation Hub and Commons. They learn engineering, computer science, advanced manufacturing and skilled trades. They build drones, 3D printers, and robots. They code virtual reality environments and video games, build functional products, and find solutions to real problems. This is a place where students can see themselves in STEAM careers. Most importantly, this is the place where they learn the power of their own ideas.  

Too often students, especially girls and students of color, self-select out of STEAM fields. They don’t have enough early, affirming experiences to see themselves having a place there. IDEA Space exists to break this trend.

By giving students early experiences and equipping them with the Agile Work Profiler and all the amazing Agility tools, students grow more comfortable and confident. They know IDEA Space is a place where they belong. 

Partnering with The DeBruce Foundation has allowed IDEA Space to pursue a research agenda to identify the most effective ways to help students grow their comfort and confidence in STEAM learning spaces. In partnership with the University of Missouri, IDEA Space is creating survey tools that will help us better understand the effectiveness of our programming. This survey tool gauges feelings of self efficacy and belongingness for all students who participate in our programming. It is currently in use with grade 6-12 students, but will soon be expanded for K-12 use. No other survey exists right now to gather this data from a broad grade range. If we can help develop this tool and share it with the entire STEAM learning community, it will be of incredible value to refine how students become more comfortable and confident in STEAM learning spaces.   

The combination of research and practice, supported by the Agility tools of The DeBruce Foundation, helps us empower students to become makers, doers and dreamers. We think Carson would agree.

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