Get Engaged 2.0
Jan 26th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My team at the Center for 21st Century Skills at Education Connection recently produced a video about student engagement, with a “Did You Know?” feel.  Check it out and share it with your friends, family, and colleagues!

Value Proposition
Jan 22nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.


I am co-presenting this morning for the Connecticut Science Fair and the Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.  My co-presenter, Joy Erickson is talking about value propositions.  I really like the idea, because it really makes the person define the scope of authentic work.  Here are some key features:

Value Proposition Definition: The four parts of the value proposition are fundamentals:  they must always be answered:

  • Need: along with your new, compelling, and definible
  • Approach: to address that need with the superior
  • Benefits: when compared to the
  • Competition and/or alteratives.

Successful value propositions are quantitative and easy to understand and remember.


  • NOT: Diabetes type 2 is growing fast
  • RATHER: Diabetes II cost our country $2B/yr and shortens a person’s life by an average of 10 years


  • NOT: We have a clever design
  • RATHER: We have created a new engine that uses methanol and emits 10% less carbon dioxide gas than the gas powered combustion engine


  • NOT: The results are excellent
  • RATHER: Our one-step process reduces costs by 50% and results in an expected ROI of 50% per year withi a profit of $30 M in Year 3


  • NOT: We are better than our competetors
  • RATHER: Our competetors are Evergreen Corporation and Bigway, which uses the current two-step process.

Great thoughts Joy!

You’ll never know when a former student “drops” in
Jan 7th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My former science research student, Drew, is a cadet in the Air Force Academy.  He recently made a skydiving splash, landing in the Orange Bowl.  See him below.  Thanks to his Dad, Fred for sharing with me.  Drew was a talented young scientist, winning the Science Horizons Science Fair and the Science Horizons Science Symposium.  He earned a trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair in 2006 and the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in 2007.  As a teacher, it is always exciting to see where my students land next.

(Sorry about the speed – the upload to YouTube sped up the film)

The Unfortunate Economics of the Science Fair
Jan 3rd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Note: This article is cross-posted in the CSSA Newsletter. Be a part of the discussion, join my personal learning network, and leave a comment on its contents here.

A recent New York Times article by Emma Graves Fitzimmons discussed the financial woes of many science fairs across the country. Sponsors have dropped out, financing has been cut and organizers are scrambling to find money. The sad reality is that some of these events are being canceled. These authentic experiences for students are often important career-leading catalysts for young, budding scientists and engineers. Although not mentioned in the article, of local concern has been the greater Danbury area Science Horizons Science Fair.

from: New York Times

Science Horizons recently announced that it would be unable to financially support its regional Fair this year, and unfortunately, this important threshold opportunity, which brings a diverse group of students together, will be lost. Science Horizons is optimistic that it can obtain funding to restore the Fair in 2012. Science Horizons is encouraging each member school to support a local fair and will provide support by sending local winners to the Connecticut (State) Science Fair, held at Quinnipiac University this March. They will also fund some awards at the State fair. The reality of the US economic downturn’s impact on meaningful, authentic educational experiences for students hits home with this announcement.

Science Horizons is a nonprofit organization that has served the greater Danbury area’s budding scientists and engineers since xxx by offering a venue for middle and high school students to present the results of their original, long term experimental research. Each year typically over 600 students present projects at their annual Fair. Science Horizons is staffed totally by volunteers and raises all its money privately.

In the spring of 1989, as a high school junior, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in Science Horizon’s Science Symposium. This experience for me was transformational. I can point to that experience as one that helped me recognize that science was both a logical/analytical a creative endeavor, that an extended project was a rigorous, meaningful way to learn, and that science was a process – so much more than a collection of facts in a textbook. I pursued a degree in Biology, worked in a Bacterial Genetics lab doing methods development for the Human Genome Project, became a high school science teacher, and have worked directly with over 200 students who have conducted and presented high quality research. Many of these students have also pursued careers in science, the health sciences, and engineering.

With Connecticut’s budding knowledge-based economy, a scientifically-literate and educated workforce is critical. Opportunities like the Science Horizons Fair must be viewed as a necessity.

Peanuts . . .
Jan 2nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

As I continue to explore concepts of expertise, I look at my front yard for evidence. About 12 years ago, I made 4 Peanuts characters that I put out on my lawn at Christmas. Over the years, two were stolen, and about 5 years ago, I made the cutouts for two new ones (Peppermint Patty, Snoopy (#2)). With the throws of children and graduate school, I never painted them until this December. Now they stand on the yard – a testament to “paint by number.” (Even if I traced the number system from a Google image). I am dazzled by those who create original art and recognize that one of the most important characteristics of the development of that expertise is the ability to regularly practice the craft.

from the front yard . . .

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