The RISE Project

The RISE Project allows your school to refine, implement, sustain, and scale powerful teaching and learning strategies adapted to your needs and assets with:

  • Targeted Professional Development
  • Coaching and Sustained Support to Transform School Culture
  • Team Building Custom Action Plan

Are you ready to be part of a paradigm shift that helps transform our schools to better meet the needs of every student? Are you willing to be part of a bold cohort of North Carolina schools that exemplify what true innovation looks like as we prepare our young people for a rapidly changing world?

The Redefining Innovative Schools through Sustained STEM Experiences (RISE) Project provides customized cultural transformation NOT a cookie cutter strategy.

Participant Testimonials

“Bowman Middle School is simply grateful for the RISE program! This program has pulled our staff together and increased cooperation across all grade levels and content areas. Not only has the morale of the faculty improved, but we have grown as professionals and we have increased the level of individual ownership in the systemic culture of our school.”

-- Paula Holder, Principal

"The RISE program has been the most adaptive, strongest professional development I have participated in. Ben and Michelle meet the needs of our school perfectly as we transition into a STEAM magnet school in 2020-21. Not many professional development programs alter for the needs of their individual participants. I would recommend this to any school or organization looking for high quality science and PBL programs at their school."

--Shane Chinni, Ed.D., 3rd Grade Teacher

“I have really appreciated the support of the RISE staff during our school's time of transition. The professional learning has been timely and relevant as we begin our journey to becoming a STEAM² Magnet School. RISE staff conducted site visits, coaching sessions, staff development and shared other opportunities throughout the state to grow our understanding of PBL and STEM.”

-- Channing Bennett, Principal

Project Details:

Who: Up to 6 Schools in NC (5 person team per school)

What: Sustained, high quality, professional development and consulting from The Science House of NC State University and Open Way Learning for the 2020-21 school year

When: Approximately 12 days of service throughout 2020-21 school year – see timeline

Where: location of PD will vary

"The most adaptive, strongest professional development I have participated in.”

-Shane Chinni, Ed.D., 3rd Grade Teacher

Commitment Requirements of RISE:

Because this program focuses on building essential underpinnings for a culture of true innovation, it requires a level of fidelity from both the program’s facilitators and the participating schools in order for transformation to occur – i.e. “Skin in the Game.” This is why participating schools are expected to make a commitment up front regarding their level of commitment to the program – something that other initiatives might not require.

  • Schools must send a consistent team with a minimum of 3 members to each PD session. Each school team must consist of 1 administrator (superintendent, principal, or assistant principal) and each school team must attend each session.
  • Schools must complete all stages of the design thinking process including milestone reflections, PBL pedagogical strategies and project correspondence.
  • Schools must participate in site visits; i.e. coordinating visits to their school facility and attending one additional model school.
  • Complete and submit the application by July 17, 2020.
  • Attend the overview session on August 7, 2020.



Ben Owens

Ben is a mechanical engineer who spent a career in manufacturing and R&D locations across the US before becoming a public school teacher in rural Appalachia. While at Tri-County Early College for 11 years, Ben and his colleagues transformed the school into one that has gained international recognition for its unique approach to wall-to-wall, mastery-based, community-facing PBL. After co-authoring the book “Open Up, Education!” in 2018, Ben founded the nonprofit, Open Way Learning, and now helps schools everywhere create the cultural conditions for localized, learner-centered innovation in their own schools. Ben has earned multiple awards, such as the 2017 Bridging the Gap Distinguished Teacher in STEM Education; and the 2016 North Carolina Center for Science, Mathematics, & Technology Outstanding 9-16 Educator. He is on the National Faculty for PBLWorks, a member of Transcend’s Yellow Hats League, and an Open Organization Ambassador. Follow him on Twitter: @engineerteacher

Michelle Benigno

Michelle is an educational engineer with over 25 years experience in education. Michelle has spent her career collecting research based strategies for learner-centered classrooms, teaching all grade levels of students, coaching as a school level administrator and district curriculum coordinator, and currently directing the Mountain Office of The Science House of NCSU. Michelle has active educational partnerships with National Geographic Explorers, Joy Labz (Makey Makey), Vernier Software and Technology, and the Moog Foundation: Dr. Bob Sound School. She is on the faculty for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and has earned multiple awards for her commitment to helping other educators, such as the Outstanding Outreach Award for NCSU and the Distinguished Service in Science Education Award from NCSTA. Follow her on Twitter: @mtbenigno and Instagram: @mtbteacher