Empow Studios Learning Philosophy

Empow’s learning philosophy based on creative play borrows from John Dewey’s instrumentalism, Piaget’s constructivism, and Papert’s constructionism in asserting that passions, perceptions, and experience play a crucial role in how a person builds and maintains his or her understanding of the world. Even in the supposedly coldly rational world of STEM, love and play drive learning. They are what makes our lives meaningful, worthwhile, and fun. That’s where we start.

Today, much of that creative play (and future work) takes place in digital, virtual, and robotic environments. Empow Studios supports not only active participation and developing literacy in that playground, but also self-efficacy and creativity. Empowering kids means giving them the tools not only to navigate their future landscapes, but be active and intentional creators of it.

Students building robots at Empow Studios

Our Curriculum

Empow’s Talent Box learning platform remains true to Empow’s constructivist and project-based philosophy, while also providing instructional prompts and supports to guide campers towards levels of mastery in their areas of interest. Our three core Domains hold a number of technology Tracks, that give kids a pathway to earn Badges in subjects like video game design or 3D printing, but the Quests and Projects they encounter along the way stand alone as opportunities for discovery and invention.

Art & Design

Building

Coding

STEM and Student Expression

As well as providing opportunities to use technology to apply science, math, and engineering concepts, Empow curricula includes diverse ways for students to perceive, communicate, and synthesize information. As well as being applications of STEM disciplines, stop-motion movies, Scratch and Java programs, video games, and 3D prints are also modes for creating, developing, and expressing understanding of topics

Science & Technology IconScience

Empow Curricula provide practical and fun contexts to develop understanding and facility with the eight essential science and engineering practices as described by the Framework for K-12 Science Education. Empow curriculum projects are also opportunities to practice the engineering Design Process. As with the Mathematics Standards, carefully planned teacher-student interaction can be used to frame projects within and draw connections to framework standards.

Match IconMath

Empow’s constructivist approach used in collaboration with classroom mathematics instruction supports Massachusetts 2017 Mathematics Curriculum Framework Guiding Principles 3, 4, 7, and 8, where students are provided opportunities and guidance in using mathematics in diverse, real-world and social situations. Empow projects, as applications and products of STEM practices and concepts, lend themselves to supporting the Eight standards for Mathematical Practice and specific grade level standards.

English Language ArtsELA

With careful lesson planning, Empow curricula can be integrated into ELA class projects or vice-versa. As do the projects that apply mathematics and science/engineering, by being narrative media, certain projects embody ELA skills and concepts in general and can target specific grade level skills. Storytelling platform examples are in animation or game design, which we recommend starting through storyboarding.

Our Tracks

Video Game Design Icon at Empow Studios

Video Game Design

Robotics Icon at Empow Studios

Robotics

Animation Icon at Empow Studios

Animation

3D Icon at Empow Studios

3D Modeling & Printing

Pickaxe Icon at Empow Studios

Minecraft

Audio Icon at Empow Studios

Audio Production

Coding Icon

Coding

Video Icon at Empow Studios

Video Production

Frameworks We Follow

Empow’s Talent Box curriculum platform is an ever-growing arrangement of engaging projects and supporting resources that offer increasing levels of challenge and complexity to developing minds. We seek to design projects that allow kids the freedom to explore their interests and experiment with new ways of doing and thinking that will lead to a deeper understanding of a complex world. We’ve carefully leveled our learning objectives, with opportunities for kids to succeed, yet to not be afraid of failure (and otherwise embrace it), to follow what Norman Webb calls the Depth of Knowledge.

Empow’s Talent Box is an ever-growing arrangement of engaging projects and supporting resources that offer increasing levels of challenge and complexity to developing minds. We seek to design projects that allow kids the freedom to explore their interests and experiment with new ways of doing and thinking that will lead to a deeper understanding of a complex world.

We follow the APT-O, PRISM, SAYO-T and SAYO-Y as instruments to assess our programs’ adherence to best practices and their effect on student behavior and perception. We’ve also adopted and adapted the APT-O as a formative evaluation tool and means to support staff development and program improvement. Empow values and actively seeks ways to gather and use data to improve performance of our programs.

From the APT-O summary and interpretation of PRISM data, we have drawn the following lessons:

    • Empow projects provide a significant opportunity for student agency and self-determination in choosing the subject and nature of activities.
    • Students who are unfamiliar with being able to make choices in academic settings must be intentionally taught how to function constructively in one.
    • While outside observers may judge activities as cognitively challenging and beneficial to intellectual and academic growth (APT-O feedback), students’ perceptions must be intentionally framed, guided, and discussed for activities to have relevance to students and to affect behavior as observed by teachers and students (SAYO-T and SAYO-Y).
    • Coordinating Empow enrichment activities with ELA, Math, and Science curricula being taught simultaneously can benefit both, enriching traditional curricula with student choice, novelty, and/or challenge, and relating hands-on STEM experience with academic skills and concepts.
    • Coordinated effort on Social Emotional Learning goals has a beneficial effect on student behavior.

Responsible Thinking Process

The Responsible Thinking Process (RTP) is a process by which students are taught to monitor their own behavior by taking responsibility for what they do. Rather than telling students what to do where you do the thinking, we ask them what they are doing in relation to the rules or standards of where they are. In this scenario, students think on their own and create their own effective plans rather than someone else doing the thinking for them. Everyone in a school-like environment, including teachers & administrators (not just students), should be held accountable for respecting the rights of others.
This process was developed by Edward E. Ford and is called The Responsible Thinking Process (RTP)®. It is based on Perceptual Control Theory (PCT).

Our Approach with Minecraft

When it comes to discovery and creativity within Minecraft, the options are truly limitless. Similar to LEGO, Minecraft has pieces, or “blocks,” to design and build with. Minecraft also has electrical elements to make circuitry and lay wire using an element called Redstone. And just like LEGO EV3 software uses code to run robotics, Minecraft has command blocks and modding capabilities where kids can learn coding fundamentals. The empowerment to design, build, and code can be achieved all within the Minecraft platform. Although Minecraft is a game, it can also be thought of as a sandbox. We stress this vs. strictly ‘playing’ the game. We feel Minecraft is an effective tool because it engages children to learn because of their love for Minecraft.

Using Talent Box, kids can level up in Art & Design, Building, and Coding, all within Minecraft. Students can choose to work on their own projects or collaborate with a friend.

Our Reward Badges

Each child’s accomplishments are acknowledged in a way that is motivating, lasting, and flexible through the use of badges. When entering an Empow program, the kids will get an overview of how badges are awarded. We think they will enjoy explaining this system to you when they come home from the program. Badges awarded when kids complete tracks in specific technologies, and are also awarded for levelling-up in cross-disciplines, including secret unlockable badges! Our badges are compliant with the Mozilla OpenBadges standard, which means that the kids can take their virtual badges to any digital system that supports it, for as long as they want. For more information, see openbadges.org.

Beginner

Because everyone has to start somewhere!

Huge Fan

A fan is an enthusiast, supporter or maybe even a fanatic about something. What are you excited about? You’ve learned a bit about your track and are showing great promise. Keep going!

The Big Cheese

The big cheese is someone knowledgeable or important in a track. People are probably starting to notice that you're getting good at this.

Techie

Beginners and Fans think what you do is magic. With a team of techies, anything is possible.

Hot Shot

It's clear that you are exceptionally able and formidable in this track.

Whiz

It is clear that you are not just intelligent; but you are particularly clever when you conquer your quests! Brainiac

Braniac

Brainiacs are super intelligent creators and inventors who are ready to become the innovators of tomorrow.

Specialist

Being highly skilled in this track, you possess the detailed knowledge that every team needs.

Scholar

It has taken great diligence to get here. Well done! You’ve earned the right to be proud, but don’t forget: others may need your help. Get ready to be a mentor and share your knowledge. This is not an end, but a beginning.

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