Feature Stories

MOMENTUM Community Partnerships Foster Real-World Learning

Minnetonka High School MOMENTUM Program Partners with the Minnesota Asphalt Paving Association for Hands-On Mathematics Unit

At Minnetonka High School, MOMENTUM provides opportunities for students with a passion for real-world, hands-on learning to take courses that can lead to skilled trade careers. The program began as a reimagining of aspects of Minnetonka High School’s technical education program, with its first courses launching in Fall 2020. Four years later, there are more than 400 students involved in classes within MOMENTUM’s four different areas of study–Construction Systems, Manufacturing, Design, and Transportation.

This spring, a team from the Minnesota Asphalt Paving Association (MAPA) and Valley Paving worked extensively with Minnetonka High School MOMENTUM students taking the program’s Physics and Mathematics in Home Renovation classes as part of a pioneering, project-based learning initiative. Both Physics in Home Renovation and Mathematics in Home Renovation are interdisciplinary courses that allow students to fulfill graduation requirements in core subjects areas while applying knowledge directly to the trades.

Inspired by a project from Purdue University, MOMENTUM instructors together with MAPA partners designed a “bidding challenge” unit where students determined funding for the hypothetical paving of a district school site, Minnetonka Middle School West. At the completion of the project, students presented their findings in the City of Minnetonka council chambers. 

The unit took place over eight weeks, and MOMENTUM instructors and MAPA professionals worked together to plan the intersection of academics and applied skills to give students an unmatched experience. 

“During the first five weeks of the project, industry experts and our instructional team incorporated lessons on reading blueprints and the major elements of the project, from removal and aggregates to utilities, paving, and excavation,” explained MOMENTUM program instructor Brent Veninga. “Students were able to visit the site in question at the local middle school, and then each team had the opportunity to give their bid presentation to a review panel, followed by a ‘bid opening’ event so everyone could hear what the other teams did.”  

“We wanted to essentially create a giant "word problem" with asphalt paving as the subject. It's a way students can achieve their learning objectives, while exposing them to an industry they might not be aware of,” said Abbey Bryduck, Executive Director of MAPA. “Putting the curriculum into a practical application with an incentive, just like in the construction world, hopefully gave the students an experience where they could envision themselves being in the future. That was MAPA's goal in the project.” Bryduck is involved in MAPA’s workforce development committee and noted that the organization approached this project as an opportunity to help students envision future careers. 

Students work on concept map in classroom

As part of this challenge, seven student teams traveled to Valley Paving for site visits. From welding to crawling inside the driver’s seat of motor graders, dozers, dump trucks and other massive machines, students had firsthand exposure to the many elements it takes to complete a large transportation paving project.

“My favorite part of the project was the progression week after week, of seeing the kids start to understand what to do on their own and then come up with their own ways to get to the answer,” shared Brent Carron, an industry professional from Valley Paving. 

Carron noted that real-world projects, like the bidding simulation, provide invaluable experiences for students to participate in. “One of the kids said it best, ‘There is no real exact answer,’ and that is the truth,” said Carron. “At first, many kids were under the impression that there was a right and wrong answer for the project, but there was not, based on what students felt they could achieve with the production, equipment and sources we gave to them.”

The project revealed an interesting tension in requiring mathematics skills, and yet not having an exact answer that instructors were seeking from students. “That's the real world, in our world of construction,” said Carron. “It’s a choose your own adventure every day.  There are many ways to get from ‘A to B,’ and all of them can be right.”

Throughout the experience, students strengthened skills to levels beyond what they might achieve in a typical classroom environment. “From the hard skills related to math and physics, to soft skills of working with professionals on a weekly basis, a new type of learning was created thanks to these industry experts,” said Veninga. “Budgeting and estimating is a lifelong skill for us all to acquire, and this took place throughout the challenge. Now students have a new understanding of the consistency of the materials applied, labor required and resources implanted, this experience really differentiates our MOMENTUM students in new and positive ways.”

Learn more about the Minnetonka High School MOMENTUM program at minnetonkaschools.org/MOMENTUM 

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