As a former high school physics teacher, Joel Donna knows firsthand how challenging developing a top-notch curriculum can be.
“I loved lesson planning, but the time preparing lessons was becoming increasingly complex and time consuming” he says, reflecting on his six years of service.
“The mission of 3Ring,” he says, “Is to close the achievement gaps in science and to reduce beginning science teacher turnover by supporting teacher lesson planning and instruction” .”
Their first product, Binder, helps students “learn science by doing science,” enabling beginning science teachers to select lessons that best meet the needs of their students. The modules contain 3-4 days of instruction and lessons packaged into units for teachers to access off the shelf.
“Research suggests that 50% of all teachers leave within the first five year. This is an acute problem in science and math where the available pool of teachers is smaller and many new science teachers do not receive content focused induction support. This is especially a challenge rural and charter schools where science teachers may be the only one of their kind. 3Ring can bridge the gap between science teachers preparation and their first years of service,” he claims.
3Ring was field tested last year with St. Paul Public Schools, including 7 classrooms, 3 teachers and 170 students. This fall, that pilot will expand to 30 beginning teachers across Minnesota.
“What we’re learning is that students are truly more engaged and interested in learning about science, exploring STEM careers.” The content is naturally aligned with Minnesota state science standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.
Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity, “3Ring isn’t owned by the founders, rather the stakeholders at large.” They license all the content and assessments under creative commons and offer it for free to the schools.
“Bootstrapped on passion,” 3Ring recently became a Minnesota Cup Social Division semi-finalist, vying for some cash, connections and notoriety.
Donations from individuals, organizations and large research grants are part of their sustainability goal. The team also has ideas about some earned income revenue for certain add-on services such as ongoing professional development workshops for the teachers, retailing materials, or white labeling for districts who want a more integrated experience.
“Not to say that we don’t run it like a business, because we will,” Donna asserts.