Central MA Up + Comer: Worcester Think Tank’s Lauren Monroe
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Upon completion of her time with Peace Boat, she returned to the States with renewed inspiration to continue study in the sciences and to teach. Lauren taught general science to at-risk teens at the Wetzel Center through YOU Inc. and received her MA teacher's licensure almost immediately upon return. She tutored chemistry and genetics to the homeschooled community for three years before recognizing the need for an educational lab and academic space in Worcester. With the help of several friends within the community, Lauren opened Think Tank with a mission to bring high quality, hands-on education to the Central MA community.
A Conversation with Lauren Monroe
SW: What was your vision for Think Tank?
LM: My vision for Think Tank was to have a space where educators and professionals could gather to dialogue, develop, and teach quality educational programs for kids. Hands-on, interdisciplinary methods and small classroom sizes were among the early philosophies. Programs were to be offered on a tuition base, and families could pick and choose among a variety of classes based on what best suited their needs, during the day and after school and designed for students aged 8-18.
SW: How did this come about?
LM: This vision came about quickly over the course of four or five months in 2008. I was tutoring homeschooling families in biology and chemistry and as the opportunities to tutor grew, so did my personal collection of microscopes, scales, and other tools. With a little courage and a lot of support from the families I was serving, I envisioned a center that might serve as a meeting place for classes and as storage for my growing collection! Assuming the homeschool need for hands-on science opportunities might be bigger than I’d imagined, I searched for a proper space and made preliminary plans. In August of 2008, I found a space within the Sprinkler Factory Studios. On September 1, 2008, Think Tank held its first open house. I was surprised at how well attended this was! It was apparent right away that an alternative educational space was needed in the area.
SW: Where has this taken you?
LM: Every year Think Tank has grown and we serve all kinds of families, not only homeschooling families. This year we have already served over 100 families and have new inquiries coming in every week. As the business is still only operated by two full-time administrative staff—myself and Adam Zelny (Think Tank has 14 part-time teachers)—it is hard to keep up. We may need to consider expanding into new space and taking on more staff for fall 2014.
SW: What are you working on now?
LM: One of the most exciting new programs beginning at Think Tank is called Curiosity Hacked. Curiosity Hacked is Think Tank’s first opportunity to engage in “maker” minded education. The “maker” education movement encourages project-based learning with an emphasis on building, inventing and re-inventing within STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) disciplines. This program and the hopeful expansion of it has attracted intellectual support and financial donations to help us grow. This fall will see the acquisition of such technical equipment as a 3D printer, vinyl cutter, and more adequate space for soldering electronics.
A number of other projects remain ‘in the works” at Think Tank. We are planning our fall semester programs here and at the EcoTarium, developing art and science curriculum with the Worcester Center for Crafts, building awareness to our scholarship programs for Worcester residents and recruiting and interviewing new part-time teachers and volunteers. We are particularly looking for educators and enthusiasts with technical skills.
SW: How do you spend any free time?
LM: What I do in my free time changes seasonally, but in general I love traveling and hiking. Presently, any free time I get is spent in a tiny timber frame house built by my partner Ian Anderson. Ian and I share an apartment in Worcester but frequently spend weekends in the tiny house in a pine grove just outside of Worcester.
During these weekends, I spend time snow shoeing, hiking, and recently have begun surveying local wetlands near the house. I’m extremely inspired by microscopic images and will often sample and collect on my hikes, and then spend time with the samples at the microscope. I’ll draw the magnified images and consider the recurring shapes and patterns I see in microscopic plants and animals. If I’m lucky something I see or draw will turn into an art and science project for kids or for an art and science installation related to my Worcester Arts Council fellowship grant. I am a proud and fortunate 2014 recipient of this grant, which awards two artists a year to pursue their passions and projects. I also enjoy singing and practice once a month with a small jug band in Holland, MA.
SW: Who or what has been the biggest influence on your life?
LM: My partner Ian Anderson, my colleague Jennifer Swan, a handful of amazing teachers throughout my life, and the lateastrophysicist and author Carl Sagan, are people who have all greatly influenced my life. I was also greatly influenced by living in Japan and then Europe after college.
As far as people as influences, Ian and Jen have taught me hands-on skills that have proved invaluable to me as a science teacher. My teachers—Mrs. Hayes, Mrs. Scales, Mr. Davis, Mr. Bear, Ms. Kubica, and Dr. Arny—were influences that led me to science, travel, and teaching. And finally, reading Carl Sagan in my mid-20s reignited a passion and ambition to pursue science that had otherwise been missing just after college. Like any great teacher can, Sagan poetically breaks down complex concepts into accessible pieces of information for any reader. I aspire to have even a fraction of his mastery and means of communication.
SW: What is on the drawing board for 2014?
LM: Think Tank will have art and science work on display at the EcoTarium on Saturday, May 31st. Lauren will be presenting on integrated art and science education practices at the Hanover Theater on April 10th, at the Introduction to Art of Science Learning and the Worcester Incubator for Innovation.
Central MA Up + Comer is a weekly profile of a member of the next generation as they are making their mark on the Central MA workforce and community. Join us every Thursday for a look at the careers and lifestyles of the local digital generation. If you have suggestions for a profile, email [email protected].
Susan D. Wagner is president of Susan Wagner PR, a boutique public relations firm invested in meeting client's goals with integrity and creativity.
Related Slideshow: 14 To Watch in Central Mass in 2014
EcoTarium's Cox, who took the helm in 2012, is one to certainly watch in 2014. If you don't know Joe, he helped raise over $26.5 million at his previous post at the Galisano Children's Museum in Florida – and broke attendance projections in the process. If a track record of success is any indicator of a future one, expect to see amazing things at the Ecotarium.
Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, EcoTarium will soon house one of the most unique exhibits in the country. A team of researchers led by Robert L. Ryan, professor of landscape architecture and regional planning at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, along with Worcester's Clark University and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, will integrate the science of urban systems into a new "City Science" exhibit.
Next City Manager
With Michael O'Brien's departure from the City Manager post he'd held since 2004 for the private sector, Ed Augustus got tapped from his Director of Communications post at Holy Cross to fill O'Brien's shoes – but for an interim basis only. The former McGovern staffer and State Senator will take the helm for nine months only, leaving the big question in 2014 as to who will be the next City Manager.
The next City Manager will have a myriad of issues to deal with, from economic development, to crime – a top issue as far as residents are concerned. Will the next City Manager address the fact that while more than 40 percent of Worcester's population is a minority, the City has more than 1,600 full- and part-time city employees and well over 80 percent of them are white. Will city government ever reflect the population of Worcester?
The Hamilton native, who did a stint at Syracuse before declaring for the NBA draft this year, is already making an impact as a pro.
In February, GoLocal's John Barone broke the news that Hamilton native, and Syracuse Orange guard, Michael Carter-Williams would declare for the 2013 NBA draft after his sophomore season.
Carter-Williams, a 2011 McDonald’s All-American at St. Andrews in Rhode Island, was drafted 11th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. He is currently having himself quite a rookie year, with 17.6 point and 7.8 assist per game averages.
Dr. Dickson, who was named President and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care this past February, will no doubt continue to have an influential role in the community.
During his tenure to date, challenges have included financial and labor issues, but also oversight of major changes as well -- Dickson appointed a new president of UMass Memorial Medical Center, Patrick Muldoon, and embarked on closer collaboration with Baystate Health to improve quality, access, and affordability of care.
Republican activist and Boylston school committee member Brad Wyatt will definitely be someone to watch in 2014, having just announced he's running for State Representative.
Wyatt is eyeing Hank Naughton's seat in the 12th Worcester District, as Naughton's now seeking the office of Attorney General. According to the Red Mass Group, the district, which includes Boylston, Clinton, Lancaster, and Berlin is the 38th most Republican leaning district in the Commonwealth. Scott Brown took the 12th in 2010 63-36, and Charlie Baker got 51% to Deval Patrick's 40%. Could Wyatt see a similar success in 2014? Stay tuned.
The Holy Cross senior is no stranger to politics – both locally, and in Washington, DC, having worked as an intern in the Office of Communications at The White House (and before that both in the office of the Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Worcester.)
As President and co-founder of the Worcester Student Government Association, Hakim told GoLocal's Susan Wagner, "Lately I have been describing myself as a pragmatist. I’m definitely a dreamer, but I believe the only way to get anything done is to make an honest assessment of where things stand and then go from there."
Who will get medical marijuana licenses in Worcester County will be watched for certain in 2014.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health in November released the names the 100 applicants for potential medicinal marijuana dispensaries who made it through to Phase 2 of the state’s licensing process. Worcester was named by 10 different applicants, more than any other city. The county itself has 14 finalists for dispensaries, more than any other county than neighboring Middlesex, which has almost twice the population.
Future of the T&G
What will become of the Telegram and Gazette will no doubt be closely watched in 2014.
GoLocal's Dean Starkman wrote in November of the scenario, "The Telegram and Gazette, a wallflower among New England newspapers that has suffered years of benign neglect by distant owners, seemed poised for a revival, after John Henry scooped it up as part of his landmark deal to buy the Boston Globe. Now a month later, he’s putting it on the block."
The potential future of the paper that has a nearly 150-year presence in the city and circulation of roughly 75,000 was broken down by Starkman. One of the major question marks is if new ownership would be local, or a return to a New York parent company.
The quintessential power player in Worcester has been a tireless advocate for the Commonwealth's tourism and visitor industry – with clear focus on developing the Canal District and the Blackstone Valley.
Giangregorio sits on the boards of Preservation Worcester and the Worcester Convention and Visitor Bureau, and also serves on the steering committee of Citizens for Business and as representative for the Canal District on the Mayor's Small Business Roundtable.
Be Like Brit
The legacy of Britney Gengel, who perished in the 2010 Haiti earthquake while on a service trip with Lynn University, continues to move forward through the Be Like Brit orphanage.
What started as a project built in her memory is now home to 35 children, and employs more than 40 full-time employees. According to the Be Like Brit website, hundreds of American and Canadian college students and other volunteers visit or volunteer at Be Like Brit each year.
He might have gotten the nod earlier this year for his cool factor, but GoLocal is putting Corazzini on our list of people to watch because of his "kid" factor.
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Waterman, the CEO of Girls, Inc., didn't always know she'd end up in the role of spearheading the 97-year-old organization in Worcester that allows girls the ability to participate in enrichment programs and get the tools, opportunities, and encouragement needed to grow.
A 20 year veteran of the mortgage banking industry, Waterman created "Divorce Mortgage Specialists" to help women in transition, before switching gears to head up Leading Women Massachusetts as President, providing cutting-edge leadership development solutions for women in organizations. Now, Waterman is setting her sights on the 100 year anniversary of Girls Inc. in 2016.
Central Rock Gym
Could 2014 be the year you start climbing to the top? If you haven't already been to a Central Rock Gym, watch out, because you could just catch the climbing bug.
Now in four locations in MA and CT, the gym offers climbing opportunities for all ages and abilities, and hosts climbing camps, regional, national – and international – competitions.
Trial attorney Paczkowski is as busy out of the courtroom as she is in – sitting on the Community Legal Aid Access to Justice Campaign Leadership Committee and co-chair of the Young Lawyers' Division of the Worcester County Bar Association, Paczkowksi is also the founding member and President of the Young Professionals Women's Association.
With goals of serving as a platform for women to share their voice on issues relating to the region's vitality, connecting with women through social and educational events, and providing opportunities for self-enrichment, the YPWA's esteemed found was recently named a 2013 Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Star.
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