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J-WEL pK-12

J-WEL pK-12 is reinventing pre-school, elementary, middle, and high school education to develop communities of the future thinkers and doers of the planet by engaging growing numbers of diverse learners and educators through design, research and implementation of educational innovations.

pK-12 Education is the foundation of economic prosperity for the societies they serve, placing students on the path to achieving their full potential. Yet, these same systems face enormous resource constraints and increasing demands from growing populations. MIT researchers are developing new knowledge about how young students learn, creating curricular approaches, and developing technologies to revolutionize pK-12 learning and help primary education systems worldwide meet their goals.

To achieve this vision of educational innovation, J-WEL nurtures collaborative work among members of the J-WEL community (comprised of J-WEL members and the wider MIT community) to establish a sustainable platform for transformation in education around the world.

The J-WEL pK-12 Collaborative brings to life MIT’s unique “mens et manus” learning approach through experiences that combine hands-on, project-based learning and the pursuit of learning progressions centered on foundational concepts in pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. The collaborative will explore and develop teacher education programs and hands-on STEM curriculum, rethink assessments, and scale learning technologies and tools to support project-based learning.

Please learn more about our community members here: https://jwel.mit.edu/j-wel-members#pk12

J-WEL pK-12 Mechanisms


J-WEL Weeks

Signature, goal-oriented programs that provide members with first-hand access to MIT’s educational resources and practice. The pK-12 Collaborative’s vision for the J-WEL Week is to connect and network global participants with the MIT community in a conversation about pK-12 education best practices. Through a variety of invitation-only in-person sessions on the MIT campus, participants will learn about the work underway at MIT and collaboratively engage in designing solutions to benefit learners and educators in pre-Kindergarten through 12th-grade education.

J-WEL Connections

Intense invitation-only digital gatherings for our members and selected outside collaborators that provide first-hand access to MIT innovations and practice, and a platform to connect and learn from our community. J-WEL Connections uses highly interactive participatory design approach charrettes to spur cross-collaboration and address challenges and opportunities of urgent relevance facing our pK-12, Higher Education, and Workforce Learning members and our larger community around the world.  

J-WEL pK-12 Workshops

Hands-on, outcome-oriented programs designed for educators and pK-12 learners at either the MIT campus or online that address topics relevant to our members. Participants leave with implementable output.

  • Our Designing Learning Experiences was part of the Spring 2020 J-WEL Connections program, to support educators as they design activities and curricula inspired by MIT’s “Mens et Manus” (minds and hands) approach to learning. Through this six-week series, participants were presented with different concrete approaches to curriculum design, given the opportunity to deepen their understanding of different methodologies such as project-, inquiry-, and blended-based learning, and considered the impact of authentic assessment. The series ended with a design thinking session that led to a curriculum design project where participants collaborated with peers and got feedback from members of the MIT community.

J-WEL Ambassadors 

  • In January 2020, we had two MIT Student Ambassador projects. One group partnered with Save the Children in Jordan to assist with one of the refugee camps. The other group went to Indonesia to collect data with key stakeholders around job employment after students completed their education.
  • Last summer, we ran three STEAM summer camp programs in Greece, Hong Kong, and China to teach students through project-based learning. This model is not only beneficial to the pK-12 students we work with, but also the MIT Student Ambassadors who get the chance to work with different populations, and the staff and faculty at MIT who develop pedagogical content. After piloting the two-week program at the Chinese International School in Hong Kong for two years, the camp at the Moraitis School in Athens was our first foray implementing the pedagogy, strategy, and modules in another location. Then at the Hsuan Huai Institute in Suzhou, we experimented with a condensed one-week program. Across all of the camps, we customized the modules around the needs and interests of the regions.

J-WEL Grants

Every year, J-WEL invites MIT faculty members to submit grant proposals in pK-12 Education Innovation, which have clear global relevance and local applicability. Past grantees have identified real problems and utilized aspects of MIT education that are uniquely powerful — such as problem-solving, technological innovation and research-based learning — to solve them. We encourage grantees to employ learning strategies, framework(s), and/or sets of standards that will be inclusive of learners across socioeconomic classes, geographic location, and abilities.  

J-WEL pK-12 Webinars

Synchronous online education-focused presentation and discussions relevant to the J-WEL community. Included in membership.

  • Fostering K-12 Outreach Through Development of STEAM Activities: In observation of Open Education Week, Kirky DeLong, Assistant Director for Special Projects, and Joe Diaz, pK-12 Action Group Program Coordinator, discussed how to create engaging activities using openly licensed modules. This webinar focused on how to develop hands-on STEAM activities that take inspiration from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • STEAM Curriculum: Dr. Claudia Urrea Senior Associate Director, J-WEL pK-12, and Joe Diaz shared hands-on activities they've developed for kids and educators to promote creativity, invention, and collaboration. Tune in to learn about MIT’s STEAM curriculum and educator resources and how you can use, adapt, and share these resources in your local community.
  • Tips from Teachers on Engaging Students in Online Live Sessions and Asynchronous Discussions: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools and universities moved their instruction temporarily online. Hear how experienced educators addressed the challenges of moving their face-to-face instruction to live online sessions and maintaining the same level of interaction as in physical classrooms.
  • Full STEAM Ahead: Supporting K-12 Learning During the Pandemic: Hear from Dr. Claudia Urrea and Joe Diaz about MIT Full STEAM Ahead, a new resource site for teachers and learners launched in response to COVID-19 to support online K-12 learning. The conversation highlighted the types of resources available on the site, how they reflect MIT’s unique approach to hands-on learning, and ways to use and help share Full STEAM Ahead in your community.
  • Equity and Excellence in K-12 Remote Learning: Fragmentary sources of data about how schools in the United States and around the world have conducted an emergency pivot to remote learning are beginning to reveal what these practices really look like: state policies, district policies, interviews with educators, and journalistic reporting. In this webinar, we discussed the emerging picture of remote learning, and strategies for planning during this summer for the challenges of the fall.
  • Safe, Familiar, Student-Centric — An Emergency Guide to Remote Teaching for Novices: As part of our Learning@Scale series, David Joyner, Executive Director of Georgia Tech's online MSCS program, taught novice remote instructors to rapidly transition to teach online for the first time following three guiding principles: minimize the risk of high-profile failures, stick to as many familiar tools as possible, and err on the side of making things more convenient for students wherever possible. The guide also took new instructors through the three areas of online delivery: delivering content, delivering assessment, and delivering the classroom experience.

    J-WEL pK-12 Engagement

    J-WEL offers professional development for educators through the support mechanisms of J-WEL Weeks, J-WEL Connections, and more. In the past, we have also offered opportunities for informational exchanges between members about different subjects.

    The J-WEL process

    A graphic recording of the strategic conversations from our October 2018 J-WEL Week, which centered around four central themes: Teacher professional learning, STEAM, the Compassionate Systems Framework, and Computational Thinking.

    Other J-WEL pK-12 Programs

  • For the Transforming Refugee Education Towards Excellence (TREE ) program, we partnered with Save the Children Jordan, Jordanian Ministry of Education, Community Jameel, and Dubai Cares to tackle the challenges encountered in primary and secondary education in Jordan. TREE uses innovative methodologies (such as design thinking) and tools to prepare teachers and strengthen their capabilities, to improve grade-level competencies and psychosocial wellbeing of children in the classroom.
  • At the STEAM Lab School in Belize, we embrace contemporary educational technologies that can richly support students and educators for a number of purposes from curriculum resources (open education resources, modules, activities, magazines, booklets, case studies, video, etc.), technology tools (games, simulations, grade checkers, MIT’s NotaBene), programming environments (MIT’s Scratch and Scratch Jr., StarLogo, and App Inventor), and online courses and programs for students and professional education for educators (like MIT OpenCourseWare, MITx MOOCs and MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program).