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    180 Days of Making by Michelle Carlson, Foreward by Dale Dougherty

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    180 Days of Making is the real-world application of a teaching philosophy we know works; with the full detail of how we made it happen:  Lesson plans, teacher insight, coach's notes...EVERYTHING  

    Our vision is that all students experience the joyful and relevant education they deserve. 

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We Are

Joyful learning is more than just a job for us, it’s our passion!  We’ve seen firsthand how this work changes lives and we’re grateful for the opportunity to support rural schools in expanding opportunities for rich, real-world learning.
Read about our company’s core values 

What We Believe

We’re a progressive company operating on a social enterprise business model, which means that we’re mission driven, not profit driven. In addition to offering consulting, professional development and other services, we also believe strongly in the importance of giving back to the community and in volunteering to support the issues which align with our core values and vision.

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Data Directed, Not Data Driven

We love data just as much as the next person, but it’s not the only tool in our toolbox. It’s one piece of a powerful set of tools we use to guide our work. We believe It’s important to remember that a toolbox is FULL of useful tools – data is only one of them.

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Rich Learning Experiences

At FDG, we know that every day is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students. For an inside look at what we do, check out our various social media channels (left).


“As an international school curriculum coordinator, I appreciate Michelle Carlson’s coaching. Her insight has been extremely useful in my thinking and planning for school change. Indeed working with Michelle has made a positive impact in my leadership role.”

Marlon Ng
Marlon Ng, Curriculum Coordinator American International School, Hong Kong

“Michelle Carlson is a technology wonder woman. She bridges the tech and education worlds, saving teachers time. She listens to staff ideas, provides options to bring projects to life, and helps both students and teachers learn the technology together to make it happen! Dependable, friendly, inspiring, positive, and an infectious spirit, her influence impacts the classroom long after she’s left. Students and staff are eager for her to return stating, what can we learn next?”

Felicia Ross, Principal, Evergreen Middle School

“As someone that found himself neck deep in the Maker Movement and realized how much today’s kids were being cheated on exploring different things, I wholeheartedly support what this amazing lady is doing. While we may kid her about being “naturally caffeinated” (she is) she uses her powers for good. After helping endless schools build their own Maker Spaces, she is writing a manual that shows anyone, anywhere, how to put together a space that allows our youth to discover their natural talents. Trust me, your school NEEDS a Maker Space!”

Scott Chandler
Scott Chandler, Leadership Team, Expect More Tehama

“When I first met Michelle Carlson I was teaching fifth grade at Olive View Elementary in Corning, CA. I had just been given a set of chromebooks and was trying to figure out how to manage 30 kids with computers. Michelle came in and was a breath of fresh air. She had so many ideas and resources for me to try and use. As a result of her help, I gained the confidence and ability to not only successfully implement chromebooks in my classroom, but became a go to resource for other teachers dealing with computer issues. With her encouragement, I decided to accept the position of Curriculum Support Provider in Technology for Corning Elementary School District. In this last year I have worked with Michelle closely at our Makerspace at Maywood Middle School. Michelle transformed a classroom into a beautiful, positive, safe place for students to bring their ideas and have them come to life. I have also seen her energy transform people. She is nothing less than inspirational. When working with Michelle you will get fresh, new ideas. Many words come to mind: ambitious, passionate, reliable, positive, enthusiastic, hard-working and creative. She has been an amazing mentor and positive influence in our community.”

Noelle McDaniel
Noelle McDaniel, Curriculum Support Provider, Corning Elementary

Michelle Carlson at Future Development Group is a true pioneer in the Maker Movement for rural communities and is positively impacting education across the country, from right here in Red Bluff!”

Melissa Mendonca
Melissa Mendonca, Leadership Team, Expect More Tehama

“Michelle is one of the most pivotal people in my life. She’s truly one of those people who said she was going to change education and is actually doing it. So proud of what you’ve accomplished so far michelle. :-) Proud to be one of the original makerspacians “

Ericka Navarrete
Ericka Navarrete, College Student

“Imagine a place where students of all ages are glued to their projects. Learning graphic design, computer science, story writing, and the practical career skills prepping them for the future. Applying school knowledge and learning to interest specific projects. Makerspace is this. A room inspiring the thinkers, tinkerers, writers, scientists, and explorers of tomorrow! This is the next step in education to create people who are capable to tackle the unique problems this world now faces. Support the students of tomorrow :)”

Maryn Spangler
Maryn Spangler, High School Valedictorian and College Student

“Michelle is one of the visionaries that ‘gets it.’ In every project we collaborate on for our students, Michelle’s expertise, vibrance, and creativity abound and is contagious with the staff and students alike. She is amazing!”

William McCoy
William McCoy, Superintendent, Red Bluff Elementary School District

Fresh News

Inspiration served regularly on our blog!

Willing Suspension of Disbelief…In Education

August 24, 2016
Interesting phrase, isn’t it?  Unless you’re a fiction writer or a movie producer, chances are you haven’t heard this phrase before.  Willing suspension of disbelief is defined as a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. I hadn’t heard this phrase until a couple of years ago when I came across author and TED speaker, Mac Barnett’s TED Talk: Why a good book is a secret door.  It was this TED Talk which inspired me to think differently about places of learning.  Why couldn’t they, too, serve as a secret door; to one’s own self, and a wide open universe of possibility?  As it turns out, they can. I used this concept to imagine and create the first free access makerspace in our region…and this crazy thing happened: it became a secret door to amazing learning experiences and community growth.  Being in the space causes a certain shift to happen, and while you’re there, you feel like anything is possible.  Anything.  Learning is different…joyful, intriguing, and energizing.  In that room, there’s an entirely new and untapped world of possibility. Several weeks ago, Deputy Probation Chief Mike Coley and I presented at the reMAKE Education Summit, put on by our amazing friends at the Sonoma County Office of Education.  We shared the nuts and bolts of how we created a makerspace in the Tehama County Juvenile Justice Center and while we were sharing, Mike said something that, until that moment, I was unaware of.  He said, “There are only three inches of concrete separating the makerspace from the rest of juvenile hall, and I’m not sure exactly how to explain it, but when we cross that threshold, everything is different, in a really good way.”  He went on to explain it further saying, “Once we’re in the makerspace, everyone recognizes this is a place to be inspired, creative, and collaborative.”  The students who spend time in there tell us that they don’t normally speak to each other much in the other areas of the facility, but they do in the makerspace.  In working on projects, they get to observe others’ work, and in the process, they realize they have more in common than they ever knew before.  One student said, “I like to draw, and I never realized how many other kids in here liked the same things until we were all doing them in the makerspace, together.” Mike adds a few more observations about what happens when kids and adults cross the threshold: Non-judgmental: One of the basic expectations of the makerspace is to be respectful.  This is often a difficult task with juveniles who are incarcerated. Non biased: In a juvenile hall, the youth often feel they have something to prove to each other, or even themselves.  These things dissipate. Desire to learn or just make: The kids have time to experiment with what they are capable of doing in an environment they are comfortable in. Connection with peers or other adults: The makerspace provides an environment that fosters

Education’s Three Forks in the Road

August 11, 2016
We are excited to announce that the book is just about to launch!  As we do our final polish over the next two days – yes, that’s right, TWO days away – we thought you’d enjoy the excerpt below, from the 180 days of lessons and activities chapter. There are three forks in the road… One is the fork you travel because you have to, because someone in charge tells you that is the fork you take. The second is the fork you take because someone in charge tells you it is good for you, and you want to do “what is good for you.” Most kids in school today travel on one of the first two forks in the road.  If they can’t find a way to fit in there, sadly, many leave the road all together, only to find more challenges and struggles.  Maker education offers all kids a third fork in the road.  A choice that brings the full glory of meaningful learning into focus for every single child, regardless of ability, social background, gender or ethnicity. The third is the fork you take because you are curious, or it is your passion, and you are personally and intrinsically motivated to travel that path, seeking out discovery.  Discovery of yourself.  Discovery of the world around you.  Discovery of your passions and talents and how to turn those things into a future. There is a huge difference between forcing students to show up to school, do their homework, learn the things they’ll be tested on, and creating an environment conducive of allowing students to find their own motivation for learning.  It’s time to make the third fork in the road available and accessible to all through maker education. Daniel Pink talks about this in his book DRIVE, Sir Ken Robinson touches on it in his book The Element, Simon Sinek talks about it in his book Start with Why as well as his TED Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.  Seth Godin talks about it, in essence, in all of his work. The activities, structure, and processes in 180 Days of Making are all about allowing students to see their own personal third fork in the road and empowering them to walk it.

Innovative Volunteerism

August 7, 2016
Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been almost a year and a half since we founded Future Development Group!  Time really does fly when you love what you do.  I know it’s been a while since I’ve published a post here, as all of my writing energy has gone into finishing the book, which will be out this month – YAY! (More on that later)  I’ve missed writing on this platform and am excited to be back at it now. Today’s post is all about finding ways to defy the odds and do what you love, in spite of obstacles, reality and other pesky challenges.  This is one of those moments where I am especially fond of one of Adam Savage’s favorite things to say: “I reject your reality and replace it with my own.”  I recently listened to an interview with Simon Sinek on London Real which inspired me to think even deeper about my work and how I can create a model of service that, although dependent on having an income to continue, does not have to have profit as the focus.  One of the things Sinek mentions during the interview is the fact that over 90% of small businesses fail in the first three years.  That’s a scary thought.  But not one to keep folks like me from going head first into it, because my burning desire to create positive change for kids, community and the world around me far outweighs any fear of failure I have.  And, lucky for us, we are half way through that first three years now and the future is bright! One of the things that startups have to keep a keen eye on is: are we in the black?  Many times, that puts profit in sharp focus, because small businesses need to stay in the black to keep the doors open.  With FDG, much of the work is in consulting, so the old saying that time is money is very real here.  But what about making time to serve, to volunteer, and to be generous?  These things are very important to us, and as such, they are written right into the core values of our company, which are: Building synchronous connections between education and industry is critical. At the end of the day, it’s all about people.  Treat them well. We are passionate about community and believe in giving back (check it out). We are bold, socially minded and live to make the world a better place. We believe in being joyful, courageous and fun. There is a lot of work to be done out there to bring our vision to life, and much of it is done through volunteering and giving back.  To fund growth and expansion in our volunteer efforts, we’ve launched a shop on Spread Shirt, selling super fun t-shirts and accessories.  It’s a win-win-win kind of deal.  Selling these items allows us to: Volunteer, mentor struggling kids, and give back to the community Offer you cool swag (designed by famous graphic artists like Heather Vine, who recently created all of the
Education Education reform Leadership

What we do today directly relates to how our students will shape tomorrow

July 6, 2016
If someone were to ask you why you teach, or why you are in education, what would your answer be? A couple of years ago, I was sitting on a bus loaded with kids on our way to the Hands On Science Lab at CSU Chico. I found myself with a little time and the need to occupy my brain.  TED Talks seemed like a good place to start and so I browsed around for something engaging.  I found this segment, presented by Simon Sinek about inspiring action and it started a train of thought that is still churning away to this day.  Sinek’s model, the golden circle, all starts with the question “Why?”  His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers and he talks about what they did that allowed them to change the world.  It all started with their ability to express what they believed and why they believed it. So, why are we in education? For me, it means that I get to be a part of something much larger than myself.  Something that sits right smack at the top of the importance scale.  You’ve heard it many times… our kids are our future, they are our greatest resource.  They are the leaders, the innovators and the creators of tomorrow.  My work is all about giving them what they need today so that they canshape tomorrow. For those of us who serve in education, the work is deep and meaningful and so very important.  It’s about more than just proficiency, numbers and goals.  It’s about giving our young people the tools they need to make the world a better place.  We have the opportunity to help them learn and grow and become the leaders of tomorrow.  It starts with what we do today.

Podcast episode 4: the Makerspace is what gave us hope

July 6, 2016
Just released: episode four of our podcast Faces Behind The Data. This one is especially near and dear to my heart as it features two of the original “Makerspacians” whose lives were permanently and positively changed by the first makerspace in our region.  Maryn and Ericka are now off to college and excited about their futures, majoring in math and computer science, respectively.  Futures they say would not have been so bright without the skills they gained during their time in the makerspace. These two amazing young women come from very different backgrounds and had very different experiences in school. Maryn was the high school valedictorian who took every single AP class she could get her hands on and Ericka struggled in school her whole life.  In this episode, they share their a-ha moments, their struggles and their personal triumphs that they both attribute to skills they gained in the makerspace. I’ve included some of their pearls of wisdom below: “I liked art, but you can’t apply that to the real world.  That’s what I thought before the makerspace.” “The makerspace lets you do fun things.  You get to find yourself there.” “It’s beautiful because I get to be seen for aspects of my character that I wanted to grow and I grew them through the makerspace.” “Art is everywhere.  I can feel my brain growing in its capacity to understand mathematics just by using aspects of it that were dormant until now.  Aspects that I grow through art and creativity.”  


FDG was founded on, and lives by, a set of core values focused on people and community

This isn’t just a job for us, it’s our passion!  We’ve seen firsthand how this work changes lives and we’re grateful for the opportunity to support schools in expanding opportunities for rich, real-world learning.

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