Building community at the Concord Consortium

While our main offices are located in Concord, Massachusetts, and El Cerrito, California, nine of our 45 employees call other states home. Like many companies, we began working remotely during the pandemic and most of us continue to do so much of the time. But as an organization dedicated to innovating and inspiring equitable, large-scale improvements in STEM teaching and learning through technology, collaboration is critical. Earlier this month, our entire team took planes, trains, and automobiles to our Concord headquarters for three days of collaboration and team building.

Our amazing software development team spent a full day putting their heads together, pair coding, and building prototypes in one of three tracks, including becoming a data storyteller, explaining through animation, and demonstrating computational thinking. Instead of using their trusty agile development tool, Pivotal Tracker, they went old school, writing development stories on Post-it notes and moving them from the “Backlog” column to “In progress” and finally “Done.” They hit a “YAY!” button to signal when stories were completed and get a well-deserved round of applause!

Next, we all ventured to a local “bowladrome” and arcade, donning custom socks splashed with our logo. While our cosmic candlepin bowling scores may or may not have been that high, the experience was out of this world! (Candlepin bowling is a New England variation of the more common ten-pin bowling and it’s hard!) And with our combined winnings from Skee-ball, Rock Band, and air hockey, we purchased a couple quirky gifts for our beloved president and CEO Chad Dorsey in his favorite color, orange!

For the next two days, we moved to the beautiful Warren Conference Center, enjoyed the outdoors, played corn hole, hiked around a lake, and learned to juggle. We used the HIGH5 strengths assessment to discuss our self-reported strengths in feeling, doing, motivating, and thinking, and used this framework throughout our retreat. We broke up into teams for a fast-paced game brought to us by TeamBonding, working together against the clock to solve puzzles, break codes, and beat the AI bot behind it all.

We made sure to schedule lots of unstructured time where we could enjoy each other’s company. During our “choose your own adventure” session, a birdwatching group identified eight species around the Warren Conference Center! A group of origami crafters created a Concord Consortium lightbulb logo and another group brought back summer camp memories by lacing keychains in company colors. There was ultimate Frisbee for those wanting to burn off some energy and a circle of Adirondack chairs for those who chose to practice mindfulness.

Over the course of two days, we spent time with the founders of Brave the Cycle, who led us in activities to build empathy, courage, and curiosity as we continue to work towards our vision of a world where all students and teachers use effective digital resources to engage deeply, justly, and equitably with STEM concepts and practices in varied personal, cultural, and social contexts.

Finally, we were delighted to welcome our Board of Directors for an afternoon session of demos of some of our 48 current projects, including connecting rock types and tectonics, re-engineering CODAP to modernize its underlying source code, designing new ways to display hierarchical data in CODAP, designing engineering challenges for the Internet of Things, supporting kindergarten learning about matter and its changes, engaging students in systems modeling with SageModeler, modeling the biological effects of chronic stress caused by systemic inequities, exploring artificial intelligence with StoryQ, and more!

Although we have returned to our home offices spread across the country, the time we spent together strengthened our connections. We look forward to continuing to build on these connections in the coming months and years.