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No Barriers Podcast Episode 76: Innovating with Mike O’Toole

Michael O’Toole has been immersed in education and coaching for more than three decades. 

His work in the classroom focuses on the areas of both physical and cultural geography as well as Earth system science. Throughout his career as an educator and curriculum developer, he has had the opportunity to work with students and teachers around the world and with such organizations as National Geographic, NASA, UCAR, the National Science Foundation, The GLOBE Program, Discovery Education, and the University of Colorado. 

Michael spent 2 years as the STEM Coordinator for St. Vrain Valley Schools before moving to his current position as Coordinator of Science Curriculum for St. Vrain Valley Schools.  

He is very interested in increasing geographic and scientific knowledge as well as promoting STEM education and the use of technology in the classroom. 

Michael is an avid outdoorsman and can be found regularly on the trails and frequently summits Mount Kilimanjaro.


How St. Vrain Valley Schools Started a STEM Revolution

NPR Article: How 3 Countries are Educating Their Kids During Their Pandemic

St. Vrain Valley Schools

No Barriers for Educators 



“I think it’s the idea of being innovative. The students realize the teacher is learning right along side with them at times and is not always the expert. And that’s pretty powerful, when you get this relationship built that you’re own this journey together.”




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Mike O'Toole: I think it's just the idea of being innovative. Students realize the teacher's learning right alongside with them at times, and it's not always the expert. And that's pretty powerful when you get that relationship built to where you're on this learning journey together. Erik Weinhenmayer: It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weinhenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon. And I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no-barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way and that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in, in the summit exists a map, that map, that way forward is what we call No Barriers. Erik Weinhenmayer: Today we continue our series that is looking at the state of education in light of COVID. And we meet Michael O'Toole, who has been immersed in education and coaching for more than three decades. Throughout his career as an educator and curriculum developer, he has had the opportunity to work with students and teachers from around the world and with such organizations as the National Geographic, NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Globe Program, Discovery Education, and the University of Colorado. Erik Weinhenmayer: His classroom work has focused on physical and cultural geography as well as earth system science. He spent two years as the STEM coordinator for Saint Vrain Schools here in Colorado, and is now the coordinator of science curriculum for St. Vrain Valley Schools. I think you will enjoy this conversation as we explore the ways that schools are pivoting to serve kids' needs in light of everything happening in the world today. Erik Weinhenmayer: Welcome everybody to this week's episode of the No Barriers podcast. If you've been listening this month, we've had several features focusing on going back to school and how parents and teachers and administrators and kids are dealing with the challenges of school today. And pretty excited to be joined by Mike O'Toole. Mike, welcome to the show. Mike O'Toole: Glad to be here. Congratulations on the podcast. I've really enjoyed the episode so far. Erik Weinhenmayer: Nice. Dave: And for our listeners who are just hearing Mike for the first time, never heard of St. Vrain, this is a very well-known national district, wildly acclaimed, lots of awards for their innovative approach to education. So we're definitely talking here to one of the nation's, if not the global, leaders in how to think about how we educate our kids. And that was one of the reasons we were really excited to bring you on. And when you think about what you teach, Mike, and what you've taught for your many years, how even before COVID, how did you bring the global culture, global geography, how do you bring that to life when you can't go to those places? Talk to us, because you've been doing that for years. How do you make that happen? Mike O'Toole: It's all about lighting that spark, that interest and imagination in the place, and having students engaged the idea of student agency, taking an invested interest in their own learning. And if you could light that spark, it's magnificent to see how it grows from there. So that's been great. And then here in St. Vrain, all of this starts with leadership and the idea of our leaders asking us to dream big and not being afraid of that. And then follow that and then learn from our mistakes. And then celebrate, of course, our celebrations in moving forward, as we talk about, continue to climb. So we always use that as a sort of a metaphor. Erik Weinhenmayer: And you make the kids into, what I understand, like citizen scientists, right? It's not just like a teacher pouring information into these empty vessels. You're trying to get them to interact in the world to create their own impact, to understand that they can be scientists in their own right. And you've had all these exciting partnerships like measuring sharks and all kinds of stuff like that. Tell us about some of that exciting work. Mike O'Toole: Yeah. It's quite remarkable when you think about who can actually contribute to science. And we get down to some of our elementary students and middle school students, and they're contributing to the scientific knowledge of our planet. And when students collectively contribute to something bigger than themselves, that's pretty powerful. They take an invested interest. They're excited about it. And oftentimes it extends learning and they take and run with it. Right now, we have a couple of different projects that are taking place, where we have our elementary kids helping reestablishing fish populations after the 2013/14 flood that took place here in Northern Colorado. And so it's quite remarkable when you really turn the learning over to the students and get them involved at what levels they can reach. Erik Weinhenmayer: How does that look, say in non-COVID times, or maybe even now? How does that look? Do you take field trips and actually have kids going out to the streams and working in those environments? Mike O'Toole: Absolutely. The idea of business and industry partnerships is just huge. We're very fortunate to live where we do here on the front range of Colorado and right next door to just some magnificent partners, IBM, you name it. Quite a few partners there. And we try to bring as many professionals into our buildings as possible, get as many of our students out, working in the field as possible, even as early as elementary and middle school. We have students working at the national parks, the state parks. And of course my arena in science, it's just pretty easy to do to pair students up with researchers. Erik Weinhenmayer: You're always creating those kinds of partnerships. Tell me how, because I'm totally fascinated, what's this project about kids measuring sharks with lasers? I want to do that. Mike O'Toole: A friend of mine actually works for Ocean First in Boulder, Colorado. And one of the leaders in online ocean education in a landlocked spot in Boulder, and she's a shark researcher and asked one day, do you think any of your students can assist with what I'm doing? Absolutely. And so what we did is we actually had them prototype and that's the idea of education today of really understanding and building a product and prototyping it, revisiting the product itself and keep working on it. And they actually built a laser to measure the length of a shark. And what it had is two lasers, their exact distance apart with a camera in the middle. And then when Mickey went underwater, she's off the coast of Baja, California. And when she went under water and use those lasers with the camera, they actually put lasers on the shark. And then later on, the computer would actually take and give an exact measurement from tip to tail, the size of that shark. And also the pictures can use the gill markings to actually identify the shark. They're like fingerprints. And so we are actually doing a live webinar with Mickey underwater, with four pregnant, great white sharks. Erik Weinhenmayer: Come on. And that is so cool. Mike O'Toole: They were all over 2000 pounds, they were swimming up and our kids were watching live. And just the knowledge of the fact that students in our district actually helped make and prototype that instrument and put it to practice and it worked and it was collecting data was quite remarkable. And so now they're actually building these. They're building them and actually selling them to different groups around the world. Erik Weinhenmayer: Is a scientist in a cage, by the way? Mike O'Toole: Oh yeah. Erik Weinhenmayer: Okay, good. Oh my gosh. And so now, so what's your model as you've started the year, like my son is at a school and they're going like twice a week and I've heard these systems, these hybrid systems where they're going for a week and then off a week, some are totally virtual. What are you guys doing exactly now? Mike O'Toole: We decided to go fully virtual right now, we're online. We will reevaluate this at the end of September. And I think everybody's in sort of similar situation, but that's been different. And one of the last things that we couldn't forget is that last year, teachers had already built relationships with students. They established the norms and expectations of their classrooms, and they really had everything moving in a direction and had goals set. And this year, now we're starting from scratch. And so a big part of any good teacher/student relationship is just that, is relationship building. And it's not only the content that's being presented, but also those relationships and invested interest and how do you do that online. That's a challenging thing to do. Mike O'Toole: A spotlight has really been placed on strategies, strategies that support best practices in an online sort of synchronous environment. What tools can teachers and students really become good at to be able to collaborate. And then also, we're engaging a different stakeholder than we normally do, or at least more so than we normally do. And that's the parents at home that are assisting. And so that's all been interesting, but the bottom line is that we're not only changing the way students learn, we're changing the way teachers teach. That's been a challenge, but it's an exciting time now. Erik Weinhenmayer: That's a challenge to build relationships with the kids. So you're touching on this, but what are the disadvantages of the virtual environment and what are the advantages? Are there some advantages? Mike O'Toole: That's a great question. I think the big thing is getting personal time with the student. Obviously in an in-person situation, you'll see a student walk in a classroom and ask them how their day's going. If they're a BMX fan or if they are a BMX rider, you can always ask them about that. And that's a little tougher to do in an online environment, especially with small group work. Different districts use different technology, whether it's WebX, Zoom, whatever it is, and just getting that individual time and making sure we make personal contacts with each student, that's the key. Erik Weinhenmayer: And so like that laser that you guys built, I mean, that's a collaborative process where people are together building that. So could you do that virtually, that same thing or would you have to adapt it? Mike O'Toole: It's definitely more challenging. Dave: Yeah. Mike O'Toole: You can have the collaborative efforts, which you're exciting, but just the in-person piece of actually hands-on. In my arena, in the sciences, we're looking at what do home experiments look like because all of our science classes, we really value that idea of hands-on learning and getting in there and figuring out, instead of just learning about. And so how do you do that in a virtual world? And the teachers though have been terrific. And that one attribute that they really good teachers have is that they exhibit what we most want to see out of students. And that is that they're a lifelong learner and they put in the time, oftentimes long time, to work on their craft and become really good at it. Mike O'Toole: This year, we had just amazing outpouring. We had almost 900 teachers take classes during the summer, a little bit over 2100 teachers in early August, we're working on best practices on online work and how to connect with students. And so it's great to see that oftentimes that adversity can, it's tough and difficult, but oftentimes you come out much stronger through that in a way it's an opportunity in disguise sometimes. Erik Weinhenmayer: What's the most exciting virtual program that you've created that you see really working? I'm noticing when I went onto the website, I mean, I was blown away by all the things, you can go tour a nuclear power plant and go tour cities of the future and virtual cities. And you could go measure sharks in the ocean. So some of that stuff is really, you can see the whole world. You have a lot of stuff at your fingertips nowadays, that's kind of never been possible before, right? Mike O'Toole: I think everybody's up their game, not only teachers and in students, but also a lot of outside vendors, organizations, such as museums and things like that. They've all stepped up what they present online. And it's quite remarkable that you could actually tour museums, virtual field trips are quite remarkable. And now they're pairing that with learning experiences differentiated for different grade levels and experiences. And so if you have that student that is just a volcano freak, he or she can go and explore to their heart's content and you can take them around the world. And so those are some of the things that teachers are trying to capture right now and really take advantage of. Erik Weinhenmayer: By the way, I can't talk about the project because it's a TV show that's coming out later, but I went to a cool island in the South Pacific and a repelled into a volcano and studied the soundscape of the volcano. It just was amazing. So, I mean, I guess that's the stuff that you can't do right now. And so every kid is online and they're seeing the world virtually and they can experience so much virtually. Do you worry or fear that there's like a backfire that because it seems to me that you're a full on hands-on guy, you love climbing Kilimanjaro with students. You love getting out there in the field. Do you worry that there's like a kind of a de-motivation to get out into the world, maybe even when this COVID thing subsides, like kids are going to be a little reluctant to get out into the world and bleed a little bit. Mike O'Toole: That's that's an interesting point. I know that one of the parts, I actually got to teach five courses these last two weeks, and it's been terrific, middle school science, until we hired some work teachers, but it was a lot of fun. We actually encourage students to get outside and they would take their devices, go outside in nature and capture images. And we would talk about the difference between observations and inferences, those types of things. And so it was really nice. They do miss that personal interaction. And that's one thing that I think is missing and our teachers are really doing a nice job of trying to connect students in small breakout rooms, making sure there's collaborative projects and things like that. That's the one thing I think that we're being cognizant of to make sure that is present. Dave: Yeah. When you kind of look at what's happening now, across the nation, state of Colorado and your district, years ago, what I'm familiar with is that the university level, they started talking about this idea of flipped classroom. And then there was a big explosion in online universities, online learning, get your degree without ever having to go to campus, save tons of money. What are some of the things that you're seeing now that you think might change the face of education forever and possibly for the better? Mike O'Toole: Yeah. Oftentimes when you're trying to move something forward, it takes adversity like this to possibly do that. And so if you think of what school looked like when the three of us were in the classroom, oftentimes we'd read about something and then we'd have some kind of exam or test to test our knowledge and in today's world, students have to empathize with the problem and can they ideate a solution. Can they actually move from that to revising their problem and then actually sticking with it until they find a solution for a problem. So creating critical thinkers is the difference between today and yesterday's world. And I think we're going to see more of that, especially with business and industry partnerships and students being engaged in the real world practical application, whether it's the sciences or social studies or something like that. Erik Weinhenmayer: Because I mean, you could just go and Google everything under the sun, but Google doesn't teach you how to think, how to critically think. So it seems like that's the way education has been adapting. It's less reciting information and more like, Hey, take the stuff that's out there and interpret it. Mike O'Toole: Yeah. That's a great point. I think that years ago we were limited by a couple things, the knowledge of our instructor, the information that it was in our textbook. And that's pretty much what you were confined to. And now you have the world at your fingertips, as you mentioned Google. So you're seeing the teacher move more from the Sage on the stage to more of a facilitator of learning and still being there to sort of drive best practices and how students actually approach a problem and learn from it, so much more of a facilitation than just a direct instructor. And there's a nice balance there, there always has to be balanced in everything that we do, but we're seeing a lot of project-based learning where students learn by being actively engaged in real-world projects. And I spoke to a couple of those about the shark research, students and the national parks, different things like that, but also blended learning, putting students at the center of learning sort of a balance between in-person and online content where students, student agency or their choice is more upfront. And then flip classrooms and the sort of a structure of a strategy focused on student engagement, where the teacher moves from, like I mentioned, the head of the class to more of a facilitator and students take more of the invested interest and drive in the direction of learning. Dave: Yeah. I mean, one of the things that I think as a parent of a kid in third grade and seventh grade is that I have always been impressed with the schools and the teachers that have been around my kids because they have been able to light the spark in their, you mentioned lighting the spark as being part of a goal and the teacher and I do worry that it's hard to light the spark. You know, my third grader has a brand new teacher and never met the teacher before, knows some of his classmates, I think part of lighting, a spark is maybe I'm too focused on like the being in person helps light that. There's some energy there, there's energy around your classmates and tactile engagement. And so I wonder what your thoughts are around, can you still light that spark in a virtual learning environment? Mike O'Toole: Yeah. I think students always surprise us. They're quite remarkable. And even the classes I got to teach last two weeks, even though it was online, you could feel the energy, you can feel the excitement of being back in seeing other students, even though it's not in person, you can see them online and be able to collaborate with them. And there was that energy there. So I think that our students are quite a bit more resilient than we give them credit for. And I think they're going to rise to the occasion with the split and hopefully we'll be back in person soon. I know that's the goal of at least our district. I think every other district is when it's safe to be able to do that, but students will surprise us and they'll come out and this be a positive, make a stronger- Dave: Tell us a little bit, you have a background in traveling the world and going on adventures. No Barriers has a background in bringing people on adventures. What's some advice if you're a parent or a teacher and you want to bring your kid or your students on an adventure in today's world where it kind of feels like we're really confined. How can we still create a sense of adventure in our kids' lives despite what we're all facing locked up at home? Mike O'Toole: First, I think it starts with the idea of student agency or their choice and getting them excited about either travel or a research topic, and then doing that together. One of the interesting things that's come about is that we have parents more involved in student learning and parents more engaged and not every parent can do that, of course, but we're seeing a lot more of that. And it's leading to some really neat opportunities for families to investigate together. And so that's definitely a positive. We've been working for the last year or so getting some of our students out in nature and seeing that we have a good number of young people that see the mountains from a distance, but they never get to go there. And so to be able to encourage them and their families to get out and explore together has been quite rewarding. Mike O'Toole: We've put together a whole series of backpacks that are full of everything a child would need to investigate in the wild and just have fun from binoculars to bug boxes, to all sorts of tracker information, things like that. And then also information from each of the local community state and national parks. And so it's been fun to get the families together on those types of adventures. Dave: Oh, that sounds amazing. Yeah. Mike, I'm curious about how you all are approaching the equity challenges of being virtual when kids can come to school, there's obviously equity challenges as well, but at least they can all, hopefully if you're providing transportation and support, they can usually all at least get there. But I know some of the national news has been around the inability of people that have adequate internet at home, technological resources. And so you have the problem of kids that have being able to access this stuff and kids that don't, not being able to access school. And then kids not showing up and missing out on a whole year of positive school experience. Talk to us about how your district is handling that. Mike O'Toole: It's interesting, even further in the district, Governor Polis actually held a press conference this afternoon, talking about this very issue and how a lot of business and industry partners are stepping up to the table and really helping extend coverage for students in rural areas. And so it's been quite remarkable here. We've very fortunate with the technology we have. We've been a one-to-one district, which means all our middle school and high school students have had devices for about six, seven years now. And trying to make sure working with, we have seven different communities here within the district, working with those communities to make sure we have as much coverage as possible has been terrific. And a lot of people have really stepped up with what took place in March and April and all of a sudden, the flip to online learning, seeing hotspots pop up around the city, making sure that equity piece is talked about and to the best that we can, addressed. And so to make sure everybody has what they need. Mike O'Toole: We've also last year, we went to a piece where we actually had paper copies of things for those that did not have online access. And then we worked with them to make sure they got online, but the paper actually took care of a lot of what they needed in the meantime. Dave: Yeah. Mike O'Toole: It's tough. NPR had a terrific article today on the country of Mexico and what they're doing there. They've taken all of their education to television and they have different channels for different grade levels. But even that, there's some equity issues with those out in rural areas that don't have proper reception, only having one TV or a couple of TVs in a village. And so that's challenging. Dave: Yeah. What are you guys doing to coach your parents and this time? Erik and I both have kids. Like I felt like we, I got in a good rhythm of knowing, okay, kids are home from school. How do we generate conversation around school? How do we support our kids best at this challenging time? Mike O'Toole: Now the first thing is patience, obviously, because it is challenging after a couple of weeks, but what teachers and administrators have to do is really look at the idea of really engaging the stakeholder. And we always did engage the parents, but even more so now with the opportunity of, Hey, you could have an invested interest in and really assist with what's taking place. And I know a lot of our teachers have done a wonderful job of including the parents and communication is a key of here's what your student is doing. Here's how you can assist in any way. And here is where you can contact us, if you have any questions, if you need some guidance. So the communication piece is critical. Erik Weinhenmayer: And related to that, here's kind of like a mission impossible question, because I've struggled with this as a parent. So my son, he's a great kid and he's online now, virtual content, virtual school. I mean, he might be on his computer 12 hours a day and all you sports are canceled. So he doesn't have that sports outlet as much. I mean, they are doing practices, but that's all cut down. So he finishes the day, just like nine to 10 at night. I just imagine his eyes are glazed over. Any tips to parents to like somehow don't lose touch of the real world. I guess I shouldn't say the real world, but you know what I mean? Mike O'Toole: I know. Again, following best practices and idea of understanding of how much time students really are attentive in class, how much screen time they should have, the idea of brain breaks, the idea of getting out and walking. We do a nice thing. A lot of our teachers do walking podcast and that'd be great idea with the No Barriers podcast, put your headphones in and get out and walk. And so we're seeing a lot of our teachers actually take that and put it to practice where they're actually narrating their notes and getting kids out outside, getting them doing some exercise. And so integrating that into their everyday. It's going to look a little different, but we have a couple schools up here that do a wonderful job with movement or the idea of getting students moving between classes, during classes. And that's a pretty critical, I think right now with having a nice balance between screen time, online time and personal time. Erik Weinhenmayer: And I know that you talk a lot about the importance of innovation in the classroom and whenever you're trying to be innovative in the classroom, there's a chance of failure. There's a chance of falling short, of even disaster. Not that the kids are ever unsafe or in jeopardy, but that kind of failure, it's part of the process, part of the iterative process. What do you think will be more permanent in terms of these COVID changes and adaptations and what do you think once COVID subsides, we'll go right back to the way it was before. Mike O'Toole: No, I think it's just the idea of being innovative, trying new things, that the idea that students realize the teachers learning right alongside with them at times, and it's not always the expert. And that's pretty powerful when you get that relationship built to where you're on this learning journey together is pretty powerful. And I think what's going to happen, I hope we move back to the classroom that we're going to see more of that. We're going to see teachers trying to do things a little differently, introduce the students to these incredible topics and in having those students be invested unlike they've ever been invested before. And that's at least my hopeful outcome and I believe that's what's going to happen. Erik Weinhenmayer: Nice. Dave: Yeah, that sounds amazing. Dave: I didn't want to finish this podcast before you tell us about your innovation center that you all built, that you raise millions of state, federal dollars for us. Tell us about your, I forget exactly what it's called, but the center and what its role has been in the education of kids and what role you think it's going to play in the future. Mike O'Toole: Yeah. Just imagine a place where truly the limiting factor for what takes place in that building is a student's imagination. And that's what you have with the innovation center, with the technology that's there in that building and the expertise with the staff that's there as well. They can prototype and create just about anything and put it to practice and work with business industry partners to rethink what education really looks like. We have students that are actually employed at the center and they work either building apps or are working with business partners on different projects and the shark project where they built the lasers there. We've got a lot of a entire aviation center where students are working on with drones, with mapping of farmland and working with park and wildlife experts to find solutions to different problems. So there's all sorts of things taking place there. I look at it as a 22nd century career development center where the trade crafts of whether it be aviation, we have underwater tanks for underwater robotics, things like that. So it's just an amazing place. And students and teachers are really taking advantage of it. And we're seeing relationships built with community partners that are taking off as well. Erik Weinhenmayer: Whose brainstorm was this? I mean, because that's a bold move and we're talking about a really beautiful building with all this incredible technology and changing the sort of the whole paradigm of the classroom. Was this your idea? You want to take some credit there? Mike O'Toole: No, no. By no means it's the leadership in our district really encouraging others to dream big. And don't look at just what's taking place now, but look down the road and around the corner. What is the education going to look like in 15, 20 years? how are we going to best prepare our students to be successful in today's world? And that's really sort of what led to a lot of the innovation initiatives. So the STEM initiatives and the district challenging sort of what traditional public education looks like and can we move the needle. There is some remarkably talented people in the district, I'm just excited to get to work alongside them. Erik Weinhenmayer: Oh, I bet you attract a lot of incredible scientists and teachers too, who want to be a part of that, that just is like the motivation of peoples coming to work at Saint Vrain. Mike O'Toole: Absolutely. And you're seeing a lot of these pop-ups throughout the state and around the country as well. Dave: Yeah. Mike O'Toole: It's really sort of changing the way we look at preparing students for a successful career, whether that's an academic career, a trade career, whatever it is, but getting them introduced to real world application of the sciences, of visual arts, whatever it is. So it's been a amazing journey and it's been fun to be a part of. Dave: Hmm. Very cool. Dave: Well, my last question, we've talked a lot about kind of the administrative strategies, the teacher-based strategy, advice for parents. What would you, you're a teacher you just taught the past couple of weeks, if a kid came up to you and said, "This online stuff sucks. I'm so pissed. I was so looking forward to coming back to school and seeing my friends." What do you say to a kid who is struggling with all of this? Mike O'Toole: Yeah, that's a great question. Just the idea of exercising patience. If it isn't for you, all right, let's talk about. Let's see what we can do to make this a better experience. And I tell you what, I think the students are rising to the occasion along with the teachers. And they've really impressed the heck out of me the first couple of weeks, just positive attitudes, bringing a lot of energy. It's different, but still learning is taken place or moving forward. Dave: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. And more importantly, for creating the kinds of experiences you are for the future generations, working through some of this tough times and providing amazing educational experiences. And as you said, thinking 15 years, 20 years down the line, a century down the line and creating the future. So it's been a great conversation. Thanks so much, Mike, for all that you do. Mike O'Toole: Thank you. Good luck with everything. Erik Weinhenmayer: Yeah. Mike, thank you for your time. And best for the year ahead. Dave: Well, Eric, tell me what's up with you today in the conversation, it's pretty close to home for us. We both have kids in school who are dealing with this. So what struck you? Erik Weinhenmayer: My head's kind of spinning, because all this is so close to home for me as a parent. I guess I'm just more impressed by the innovation and the paradigm shifting stuff that Mike and his team are bringing to the table for students. I mean like ending with this innovation laboratory is just such a paradigm shift in education. It's not even like a traditional classroom at all. It's not like looking at charts of protozoa like I used to, when I could see in middle school. I mean, this is like a total brave new world of education and I'm still hung up on measuring sharks with lasers. I mean, I want to do that. Dave: Yeah. Yeah. You got to get that. Erik Weinhenmayer: Yeah. And that sounds so fun. If I had measured one shark with a laser when I was in school- Dave: Forget about climbing Everest. Erik Weinhenmayer: Forget about mountain climbing. I would have been, yeah. I would have been an oceanographer or something. Dave: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And for me, this whole idea that he was talking about the role of teachers being to light a spark, give kids agency, let them be creative and explore. And in today's world, they can still do all those things. And me thinking, geez, I got to step up as a parent because I've been feeling a little down by the start of the year. They're not going to school. And I feel like there's a lot of opportunity to still create that spark and get them excited to be learning about things and really create things that could be doing both in school and out of school, even though they're not the things we used to do before COVID, so I'm excited to explore what I do with the kids next week to light the spark. Erik Weinhenmayer: Yeah. I agree. I mean, and there's what Mike Cuchara said last week, which was, don't cry about the things we've lost or that the things that we can't do right now, or the things that aren't working. We've got to sort of focus on what we can do and the advantages, the benefits, like Dave, I know you're very lucky and fortunate, but I mean, I know because of this virtual environment, you are spending a lot more time with your kids and being a teacher for them. And so, I mean, I know every parent can't do that, but I do think that's a good mindset for us to get into, let's not cry over what we can't do, let's figure out how to flourish in this new environment. Dave: Yeah. Well, I think that's a good message to end on. Thank you everybody for listening. As always, if there were any things that we talked about in today's conversation that you want to go do some extra research on, you can find details in our show notes. We appreciate you listening. This is the second in our short series we're doing just focused on getting back to school and we'll be pivoting in October to some of our other topics, but hope you appreciate this focus on what's happening with our kids, our teachers, our parents, and keep listening and share this with others. Thanks so much. Erik Weinhenmayer: No barriers. Speaker 4: The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer, Pauline Schaffer, executive producer, Diedrich Jong, sound design, editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman. Graphics by Sam Davis and marketing support by Megan Lee and Carly Sandsmark. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan Band for our intro song, Guidance. And thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time and we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.

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