This year’s Let’s Build It Institute took place from July 6-8. The fourth annual event saw 39 past winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence gather virtually for three days of learning, growth and networking. Let’s Build It fosters opportunities for skilled trades teachers to recharge and have a greater impact on their classrooms in the coming academic year. A mix of interactive activities and breakout discussions provide tools to help teachers adapt and evolve to meet the individual needs of a 21st century learner while remaining true to their core values.
This event evolves each year as new cohorts of prizewinning teachers are brought into the fold. For example, the theme “Painting a Vision for the Future” went literal as our teachers engaged in a virtual painting class on day one. This activity allowed participants to experience a hands-on element that put them in their new students’ shoes by way of practicing an unfamiliar skill. Getting teachers outside their comfort zone allowed them to be the student again, learning and collaborating with their peers.
Other opportunities for connection and growth included breakout discussions by subject area and school size. In these groupings, teachers shared best practices and resources that helped buoy them through the last year. From project ideas to grading scales, quiz platforms to apprenticeship application processes, our teachers were ready to share their wealth of knowledge with each other and create bonds from hundreds of miles apart.
These new and thought-provoking experiences also gave participants the chance to develop inventive ideas with the potential to advance skilled trades teaching and learning. Such ideas can grow into realities through Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Pilot Project grants. These teacher-led projects start small, as a “minimum viable product,” and through invention, planning, implementation and learning, show potential to grow and spread to lift-up this vital sector. Successful Pilot Projects are intended to have an impact beyond a single skilled trades classroom and have a design that can be replicated. We can’t wait to see what this year’s inspired teachers bring to the table.