December Partner & Volunteer Highlight: Building Momentum
Building Momentum, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business, is a key community partner for Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) that encourages the application of classroom concepts in real world challenges for ACPS students. Its camps, classes and field trips help empower students to push the boundaries of what they can learn and build. “The whole point of all of our classes is that it demystifies and makes accessible tools and technology that someone may feel is out of their realm,” Chief Creative Officer Allen Brooks said.
Teaching focuses on electronics, metalworking, robotics and woodworking, with the training built around potential career pathways for students to explore. “Our partnership with Building Momentum’s Innovation Academy offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in experiences that include a full range of technology teaching, including 3D printing, laser cutting, drones, robotics, electronics and more,” ACPS STEM Coordinator and Elementary Math Instructional Specialist Julia Neufer remarked. She also noted that, through these experiences, students gain knowledge for using a variety of unique tools and even more importantly, “students enhance the development of their critical thinking skills, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity.” As Brooks put it, “It’s about creating a problem-solving mentality as opposed to just teaching a skill set.”
Through its camps and classes, Building Momentum creates an environment that invites experimentation and innovation and presents the opportunity for students to learn. Brooks believes “When you are given the trust, confidence and permission by your instructors to weld or metal bend and build a human-powered go-kart that's going to travel through the parking lot at the end of camp — that’s exciting.” He believes the classes taught at the Innovation Academy help students step out of their comfort zone, “There is nothing more empowering than to see what can happen when a kid accomplishes something they didn’t think they could do.” Prior to field trips, Building Momentum’s staff works with division teachers to make sure that what is covered during the experience aligns with what it aims to accomplish in keeping with the Virginia Standards of Learning. “We want to make sure we are supporting teachers, not trying to tell them how to do their job,” Brooks said.
Neufer touted the benefits of a field trip by a group of ACPS middle school students to Building Momentum as part of the division’s summer learning program. She said the students learned a lot about safety guidelines that must be followed when working with tools and technology. They also experienced hands-on learning to include laser cutting, welding, computer-aided design and woodworking. Neufer said this field trip served as a direct connection to the Virginia Architecture and Construction Career Cluster’s focus on designing and building. The field trip helped the students investigate career paths in keeping with Career Clusters' aim to design courses of study to advance their career goals.
Building Momentum’s Innovation Academy focuses on an integrated approach to learning as it incorporates science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts into its classes. It offers a new take on out-of-school, after-school and summer programs and is geared toward kids who want to learn how to help solve the problems of tomorrow.
“The lifelong skills students take away from these experiences easily transfer into the classroom and everyday life,” Neufer said, “teaching us to approach challenges, tasks and problems with flexibility and outside-of-the-box thinking.”
- Partner & Volunteer Highlight