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iLabs: Those CRAZY Mind Maps – or How DO We Decide the Plan for the Year?

July 2, 2014

I mentioned that over the next several months we’re going to be featuring updates on room activities, classes we’ll be doing etc.  For today, I thought I’d give a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes to even decide what will be happening in the lab over the next year.

Ever wonder how we decide what classes to do, when to offer them, how to sequence them, what age and group to target, what table activities to create, exhibits to build, and on and on and on?  Well believe it or not, there is a method to the madness and it’s not a random set of decisions. And while school needs and curriculum correlations matter, our most important driving force is  “our passionate vision.”

We adamantly want:

  • To fire to every student’s soul with a passion for learning.
  • To give them the chance to get their hands on the tools and realize “I CAN do this!”
  • To understand science is FUN, CREATIVE, and FULFILLING.
  • To reveal to them just how amazing the world around them really is.
  • To learn to critically think and evaluate and decide for themselves.
  • To give them a way to a better life. Education of any kind can be a way out of poverty and hopelessness.  Science is no different.
  • To show them how science can connect them to tremendous job opportunities. The growing biotech industry in this state needs trained workers as much as the local population needs good jobs.
  • Most importantly, to show them that pursuing a career they love, whatever it is, can make all the difference in the world, to them, to their future, and to the world, because maybe something they do can help another.

So how do you capture the essence of all of these various things into a coherent plan of science lab classes?

For sure, everyone has their own way of approaching decisions.  For me, it’s “mind maps.” By now, everyone I work with is familiar with the fact that Deb does mind maps.  It’s like my brain on paper.

I consider it survival – a way to get all of the thoughts and ideas I’m coming up with, OUT of my brain and in some kind of order, on paper. It allows one to see the big picture, the interconnections of topics, and the unifying thread that brings them all together in a logical curriculum.  So, whether it’s for a report, a class I’m creating, or an entire year’s plan of everything the lab is going to do….mind maps are the tool.

Before a thing gets listed on our website, a class description is written, or a test tube purchased, first….there is the mind map.

When we first opened our lab two years ago, I did a basic brain dump of all possible topics we might consider covering in our lab. Here is that mind map:

Basic lab topic plan

With that as a starting point, we could choose what to create first. And that overall plan informs each year’s decisions.

This past week, knowing we have another year of funding from Biogen Idec Foundation, and knowing we want to provide the maximum benefit for the money, I created this mind map as the plan for the year:

plan for grant science classes

And yes, I like COLOR!!! The artist in me coming out. 🙂 But joking aside, with this diagram, I could see at a glance:

  • everything we’ve created up to this point
  • what needs to be retained, revised, rotated in or out for the year, or flat out discarded
  • what classes are being targeted for what audience
  • what new classes and initiatives are being created
  • what classes give us the most benefit for the effort
  • what topics we will be focusing on for classes, public table activities, room exhibits, Thursday night and Saturday morning programming…all of it

The next thing that happens is to “go linear” – or as I call it, switch brains from the right brain “creative” brainstorming, to the left brain, “let’s get down to details” chart:

detailed topic lists for classes

This is a chart by class subject, where everything we might want to include in a class is listed. It may not all get used, but it’s our “if we could have it all” wishlist, this is what to include.

From here we have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be in the class, what kinds of equipment, kits and supplies might be needed, and we can order them. The next thing is to start deciding on the actual number of classes, when they’ll be held, write up descriptions and age ranges for the website postings that you see on our website, and start plotting them all on this calendar.

wall calendar for 2014-15

At this point, we can all start digging in and creating, revising, polishing and testing our classes for delivery!!!

Soon, I’ll be writing about specific classes that we’ll be featuring this year, and what kinds of things will be in those classes. Stay tuned!!!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mickey Jo permalink
    July 2, 2014 10:04 am

    I love this. Thanks, Deb. You are an inspiration.

    • July 2, 2014 6:38 pm

      Mickey, Thanks so much. Just very passionate about what we are doing. 🙂

  2. permalink
    July 2, 2014 5:54 pm

    Hi Deb, I love your mind maps.

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