“When you’re in high school, and you’re thinking about a career, you could think about what’s just going to make you a lot of money, or you could think about something that you’re going to be happy doing for the rest of your life.”

This advice, offered by a Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate, illustrates a primary theme of the Working Class public television series: inspiring students and teachers to connect academics with practical experiences and to relate classroom learning to careers.

hammer“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question adults ask kids all the time. But, how often do we sit down and explore real career options with them? Do we help them understand how the things they learn in school apply to real-life challenges?

Have you ever wished you could go back to school with a greater appreciation for how the world works? I have often thought I would pay much closer attention and work harder – not for the grades, but to gain a greater understanding of things that I now need to know. That includes everything from planning my finances to understanding how systems and machines that I use every day actually work.

Have you ever wished you could go back to school with a greater appreciation for how the world works?

We know that education is mandatory, but do we understand that it is important? Do we explain to students how the lessons they are learning will make a difference in the quality of their lives?

spider-designIf we want our kids to have the opportunity to earn a living doing something they enjoy, we need to help them lay the groundwork for success now. We can do that by encouraging them to explore their interests and follow their curiosities as part of the learning experience.

We know that education is mandatory, but do we understand that it is important?

We need to do more than remind them they’ll be on their own one day. We must help them consider where their talents and interests lie, then encourage them to find ways to connect their basic education – reading, writing, and mathematics – to those things they enjoy.

gogglesHere are three simple things we can do now to help inspire the next generation to make the most of their learning experiences:

(1) Give them access to books, magazines, and reputable Internet resources that relate to the subjects they find interesting. Read along with them. When the subject matter is interesting – and you are sharing the experience with them – they may get more excited about reading.

(2) When their homework assignment includes writing an essay, encourage them to write about something that relates the subject matter to their personal interests. They may need to do some research in order to link the assignment to a subject they find compelling, but treat the exercise like a game and they may rise to your challenge.

(3) Think about the role numbers play in their hobbies – whether it be observing nature, making things, or playing sports or video games – and describe ways that learning mathematics could help them do what they love to do even better.

2-writersThe next time you ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” also be willing to share from your own experiences and provide a bit of guidance to encourage young minds to stay open to opportunities they will enjoy.

Encourage them to consider the advice (given at the beginning of this piece) of Penn College graduate Lauren Hoderny-Hill – to think about something that they will be happy doing for the rest of their lives – and then learn everything they can about it.

Working Class: Build and Grow Green premieres Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. on WVIA TV.

Lauren, who now works at one of the nation’s top public gardens, appears in the latest episode Working Class, which premieres later this month. I hope you will watch and learn more about her life as a senior gardener at Longwood Gardens.

The broadcast premiere of Working Class: Build and Grow Green, a production Penn College and WVIA Public Media, is set for Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. on WVIA TV. The film also will be available for viewing on the series website on that date. Please tune in and invite a student or teacher in your life to watch with you.





The formation of seeds at the center of a blooming sunflower. The unfurling of a fiddlehead fern. The columns and curves of Roman or Greek architecture. Math, science and art observe the Golden ratio.

I love nature and I love art. But, to be honest, I’ve never taken well to math. Algebra threw me off track and I never was coaxed back on. I was good in English. I think my teachers might have thought being good at one thing was good enough.

Not all teachers believe such nonsense. There are even students who get excited about learning complex, yet critical concepts like the Golden ratio. I had the good fortune to meet two such enlightened individuals and we talked about Phi — the divine proportion.

Continue reading IT SHOWS UP … EVERYWHERE


We dream in solitude, but opening spaces for creative collaboration may help us — as individuals, organizations and communities — realize the full potential of our dreams.

This idea is the foundation of a popular Maker Movement that is gaining global attention for its merging of old-style “tinkering” with emerging technology systems.

“The future economic and social landscape [will be] shaped by the Maker Movement.”

“We will for the first time be able to truly ‘race with the machine,’ harnessing the power of the machine to unleash and amplify our creative energies,” according to Impact of the Maker Movement, a 2013 report that suggests the movement could radically change manufacturing and retail industries as well as education and public policy.

The report predicts that “the future economic and social landscape [will be] shaped by the Maker Movement” and that “collaborative production will define the future of work.”

Pennsylvania College of Technology faculty see an opportunity to use maker spaces to help students relate the theories they learn in classes with projects they can enjoy making on their own.

Lauren Rhodes touring Bucknell maker space

The ability to have an idea – even though you have no idea how to make it happen – to be able to walk in and maybe meet other people who could help you make it happen,” excites math teacher Lauren Rhodes.

She and other Penn College faculty and administrators visited Bucknell University to get an idea of how faculty there are encouraging student participation in the maker movement.




Participants in SMARTGirls initiative at Pennsylvania College of Technology

“If we have fun doing it, we might need to know, how does that work?”

Curiosity can inspire fun and creativity at every age. Andrea McDonough Varner — coordinator of the Williamsport Area School District Art Department — sees it happen in K-12 classrooms.

design camp
Summer camps encourage creativity

“I think about eight, nine-year-olds that have this interest  … maybe it’s gaming, maybe it’s experimenting with science. We know that it’s fun; we’ve got the fun down. Then that inspired us to go out and seek the knowledge … If we have fun doing it, we might need to know, how does that work?”

College students often react the same way, according to Lauren Rhodes, assistant professor of mathematics at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

A “lifelong lover of math and art and music,” Lauren said students gain an increased appreciation for theories and concepts when they encounter challenges in projects outside the classroom.

In a video available now for online viewing, Andrea, Lauren and other educators share their thoughts about creating spaces for students to learn while doing.

Continue reading CURIOUS CREATORS


Hands-on, creativity activity defines the popular maker movement

“It’s DIY with a tech edge.”

Do you embrace a “do it yourself” philosophy at home or at work? If so, consider yourself part of a global movement — the maker movement.

“Maker,” according to an Adweek article written by Joan Voight is “the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers.”

Continue reading DEFINING A MOVEMENT


“It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them,” Leonardo Da Vinci once said. “They went out and happened to things.”

Leonardo Da Vinci self portrait

It is not only about what is happening TO you. It is about what YOU make happen!

What a great motivational message for children and young people who are learning to make choices and establish attitudes that will carry them throughout their lives.

Happy, successful people  choose to see their lives as interesting and fulfilling. It’s not what they do (because happy people are not all doing the same things); it’s how they feel about what they do that makes the difference.



“As the material of industry has changed, and as processes have become automated, the greatest resource of any individual, organization, state or nation is the trained mind.”

More than half century ago, Dr. Kenneth E. Carl — one of the authors of the Pennsylvania Community College Act — underscored the human aspect of technological advancement in his statement that acknowledged the connection between successful industrial automation and the education of people who are required to do the work of industry.

WACC Dr. Carl
Dr. Carl (center) broke new ground in higher education

Dr. Carl portraitAs we celebrate the many ways that technology improves our lives, we must not lose sight of the fact that human intelligence is the foundation for innovation. Training minds to adapt to change and to lead future advancements in our society  is a significant challenge in education today.

Continue reading MASTER MIND – PART II


Technology changes the way we do things. Still, our minds are the masters of technology. To be successful in the 21st century, we must learn to master our minds through academic study and practical, applied technology.

Students, along with parents, teachers, guidance counselors and other mentors, also must consider the impact of technology on careers. Automation — made possible through technological advancement — has eliminated  some jobs while creating others.

What We Do for a Living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, published by Pennsylvania College of Technology, takes an in-depth look at the modern world of work. I invite you to read the publication to learn more about viable career options, fast-growing occupations, and emerging workforce needs.

what we do for a living
Current workforce data helps students set career paths.

Continue reading MASTER MIND – PART I


Nick S class
Nick Stephenson leads class discussion

“It’s not just about making something look pretty or making something look trendy. — Nick Stephenson

“It’s not just about making something look pretty or making something look trendy,” Nick Stephenson tells his students in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s graphic design major. “It’s about having something that really has an idea behind it … that’s really well thought out … a good solution to the problem.”

Continue reading WORD TOOLS


publicdomainpictures.net flower of life
Flower of life from publicdomainpictures.net

I love purple! The color is a unique combination of exciting red and calming blue, so it catches the eye while offering solace to inspire creative thought.

Some color experts believe Leonardo Da Vinci disclosed the power of the hue when he declared the effects of meditation increased in purple light created by sunlight streaming through stained glass.

publicdomainpictures.net leonardo-davinci-statue
Da Vinci statue from publicdomainpictures.net

Poets and writers love purple. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple won a Pulitzer Prize and it is a treat to hear Jenny Joseph read her warning, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.” (I love this poem so much that I still display a plaque featuring the entire work that I purchased decades ago!)

Kids love purple too. Inspired by a production of Harold and the Purple Crayon, children enrolled in the Robert and Maureen Dunham Children’s Learning Center at Pennsylvania College of Technology created original artwork featured in Working Class: Dream & Do.

Continue reading INSPIRED BY PURPLE