We all need approval and validation

I have developed a pretty thick skin (or so I like to think), but am still vulnerable when people appreciate our work 🙂
We recently interviewed a parent who had participated in two of our Family Science Courses. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

The family couldn’t attend the first session of our CardioVascular Mechanics course and the mom told me that her daughter was so disappointed that she cried!

Getting the Family Science Program off the ground has been such a battle. I got the idea in 2006 after reading an article about the Open Classroom in Salt Lake City Utah and then kept trying to implement it with little success in various schools. We would get 2 parents, sometimes 1 at the sessions and our brave volunteering engineers would continue teaching to the one student and one parent. Sessions at Shenandoah and Trinity were total failures. Many people told me that the model wouldn’t work in an urban setting, especially with some of the more jaded LAUSD schools.
But I kept repeating to myself that you have to give everything a second chance. Change a couple of things and try again. And things usually got better the second time around.
We have now done 4 successful Family Science Courses at Shenandoah and 2 at Trinity with attendance between 60-70 people.
We also have some basic formulas down that help us go to new schools and run a pretty solid program. The formula seems simple now, but I guess its not that simple, otherwise the journey would have been much quicker and less interesting.
We even replicated the program up in the Salinas/Pajaro area with the help of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We weren’t there at any of the sessions, but the model is sufficiently robust that it can take replication. The little town was so happy with the sessions that they got the local TV station and newspaper to cover it 🙂

It is an interesting lesson overall, sort of like what Gladwell’s book Outliers talks about as well. It takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to achieve any kind of success. It is about being intelligent and having staying power. It does take about 2-3 years before you start seeing any results and then maybe another 2-3 before you start getting known for what you do.

Crime in LAUSD schools

Our Urban School Needs Map project is humming along. The project is super cool with many far-reaching ramifications. The goal is to develop a visualization tool (with the help of a team of very kind Italian researchers from Density Design) that would help us determine which schools are the most needy in a particular area and which ones would make good long-term partners. The former decisions are based on freely available data on school performance, school crime, zipcode poverty, crime and education levels.
To determine which schools would make good long-term partners, we look for interesting patterns in the data. For example, we found a correlation between change in school crime and change in school administration. Exciting stuff!!
The map will be freely available to all and the hope is that it will help schools become more transparent and accountable.
We will also run large teacher and parent surveys that will help us add to the statistical data to determine which schools would make good long-term partners. This recommendation tool would be useful for funding agencies to help them determine which school they should support.

We just finished extracting the school crime data using some neat tools developed by a local startup. We then plugged the data into geocommons to get the following maps. You can also view the original map here.

Some other cool examples of such maps are:

Stay tuned for more neat visualizations!