Where students’ entrepreneurial enthusiasm leverages local expertise from A-to-Z
Maples Met School (Seven Oaks School Division)
IN A NUTSHELL
The MICE program provides learners with internships with local entrepreneurial mentors, to design their own start-ups that cater to real clients. Through partnerships with two organizations, students have learned the design process, gained critical skills related to seeing a project through from beginning to end, and developed solid business concepts related to app development, clothing lines, social enterprise, robotics, and renewable energy while gaining critical skills for a changing work world in a deeply authentic way.
THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY
The Maples Met School is a project-based, learner-based school in Winnipeg with 150 learners and 9 faculty. It is the second Big Picture Learning School1 in Canada, designed around several critical practices:
- In Grade 9, learners are grouped into “advisories” of 15 students and one adult. This group stays together for the next four years, developing the deep relationships that foster learning.
- Learners engage in internship two days a week, working with mentors who share their passion.
- The other three days are devoted to project-based learning, whereby they ask critical questions about the human experience and set out to develop answers.
- In lieu of exams, students demonstrate their learning four times a year through public exhibitions, where they stand in front of their peers, parents, advisor, mentor, and the public to show how they have met their learning plan.
The school is housed within a larger comprehensive high school in a hyper-diverse neighbourhood that includes newcomers from the Philippines and India, First Nations families, and second-generation Portuguese families.
ORIGIN OF THE PROJECT
The MICE program was designed in response to: 1) learners who wanted to develop their own ventures with the support of mentors who had not only technical skills, but expertise in the design process and business management, and 2) teachers who wanted more authentic learning experiences for their students, beyond that of traditional internships.
The program’s goal is to provide learners with an opportunity to design their own start ups supported by mentors in the field. MICE participants achieve outcomes within Manitoba’s entrepreneurship curriculum. Depending on the individual project, they also meet outcomes in the Information and Communication Technology, English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies curriculum.
Launched in September 2018, The MICE program is designed for learners who have a passion for developing start ups and projects that are innovative in nature and founded in tech.
It is enabled by partnerships with two organizations, both located in Winnipeg’s Innovation Alley – a neighbourhood that has become home to a concentration of cutting-edge start ups.
North Forge Technology Enterprise is a start-up incubator that offers budding entrepreneurs affordable facilities, mentorship, access to market research and training, and a state-of-the-art fabrication lab. MICE learners are paired with entrepreneurs who share the same passion, such as robotics, app development, social enterprise, streetwear, and sustainable energy.
- On Tuesday learners spend the day at their internship, developing the skills necessary to launch their own start up and also assisting the organization they are partnered with.
- On Thursdays they meet with the President or North Forge, Jeff Ryzner, in intense sessions where they update the group on the progress of their start up. They are also are introduced to contacts in the community or may attend events and training sessions with the entrepreneurship community.
- To support their experience, students complete online learning modules developed by Maple Met School the provide a grounding in the theoretical foundations of entrepreneurship.
Red River College’s (RRC) Ace Project Space, home to RRC’s Computer and Information Technology program, is the second partner. At the Ace Project Space, RRC students work with emerging entrepreneurs and community organizations to develop needed tech-related solutions, products and prototypes.
- Met learners who are partnered with Ace Project Space also spend two days a week participating in the unique culture of this space and program. They are part of the program and work on real apps for real clients. They learn the Agile Project Management2 process, the culture of app development, and the technical aspects of creating a highly functional app (creating narratives, wireframes, etc.).
- They participate in Scrum every morning, where they update the entire space on their progress.
- Learners are mentored by RRC faculty who have private sector experience.
In both cohorts, the advisor/teachers visit the site weekly, meeting with mentors and learners to ensure that learning outcomes are met and mentors feel supported during the internship.
TEACHER AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
One of the teachers at the school expressed his enthusiasm for the project by describing its effect on one of his students, Kiara, who wanted to expand her knowledge of computer programming and new media in order to support her family in launching their new business.
Through the MICE program, Kiara started interning at Ace Project Space. She worked with some other students to develop a program that families, students and advisors could use to schedule student exhibitions – a program that fills a read need in the school community. In addition to the technical skills and knowledge Kiara gained, her advisor saw growth in many other areas: she demonstrated more confident and effective communication with peers, effective use of feedback to improve products, and increased confidence in her ability to undertake complex tasks and to contribute valuable skills to a team project.. She looked forward to her days at Ace Project Space and was truly excited to see her project grew into a viable product.
Costs to the school are minimal as resources are shared between Maples Met, Red River College, and North Forge. The availability and willingness of these strong partners is key to the success of the program.
INNOVATIVE VALUE OF PROJECT
Through the MICE partnership, learners work on real start ups that have meaning and are authentic. They are mentored by partners in the community who are passionate about innovation, technology, and design, while developing the human skills required for the changing world of work. Marney Stapley, V.P. of North Forge, writes: “… this program will help develop a ‘next generation’ of Canadian entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders who will be more creative, collaborative, competitive and experienced in developing new innovations and taking them to the world.”
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In the Media
Maples Met wins national award – via Winnipeg Free Press
2 For a brief description of agile project management, see: https://www.apm.org.uk/resources/find-a-resource/agile-project-management