From the Director's Chair
Dear Lower School Families,
One of the newer aspects of our Lower School programming has been the addition of the Idea Lab on the first floor of the Lower School building. The Lower School IdeaLab is a relatively new feature – a makerspace that encourages tinkering and exploration, a learning environment that enables students to explore STEM and literacy concepts through hands-on projects while developing skills in the areas of innovation, collaboration and creativity. The Lower School IdeaLab has just begun to enrich the learning experience for our students, and I want to tell you more about how your children use it. Thank you to Lower School technology coordinator Christy Brennan and to Rebecca Luzi, associate director of marketing communications, for pulling this information together.
So far this year students are working on three themes in the lab: building, coding and engineering. The materials that support the building piece of the IdeaLab curriculum include Legos, K’Nex, wooden blocks, unifix cubes and cardboard. While working on coding, students may use iPad apps like Kodable and Scratch Jr., iPad tools like Osmo, plus Dash & Dot Robots. Engineering tools are Lego robotics kits, Little Bits circuitry kits, Makey Makey circuit boards, LED lights, coin batteries, and conductive paint and pens.
Kindergarten began the year working with Chromebooks and practicing some mouse skills. The children have been building with Legos, K’nex and other building tools, coding with the iPad app Kodable, and programming our robot Dash using the Dash-Go app. We’ve also begun to explore how the Osmo kits and mirrors work, while reviewing some counting and addition skills.
First graders have become very independent at navigating the building and coding centers and are learning more and more about our robots Dash & Dot each week. They were able to employ their artistic and brainstorming skills early in the year as the space was coming together. It’s wonderful to see how they have been working with each other and sharing ideas and materials with partners and in small groups.
Second grade students have been alternating their technology time between learning about Chromebooks in their classrooms and spending structured time in the IdeaLab. The children have been quite independent while working at the building, coding and engineering centers. After reading Iggy Peck, Architect, one of our favorite projects this year introduced the basics of the design process: they worked in groups to build prototypes of a chair that the main character, Iggy, would need and find helpful.
Third graders work with the additional tools of Makey Makey circuit kits and Lego robotics kits. Students in third grade have also begun to use the first few minutes of their tech time practicing their keyboarding skills.
In fourth grade, there is a greater emphasis on the engineering and coding centers. Additional resources and tools in the fourth grade students’ toolkit include LittleBits circuitry kits, Hour of Code web resources, Scratch programming, and a more advanced version of the Lego robotics kits.
Like grades K-4, our busy fifth grade students do web-based coding, though they work on that in library/tech rather than in the IdeaLab. Hoping to be able to use some of their library/tech times in the spring to introduce them to the IdeaLab, we are exploring a collaboration between fifth grade students and their second grade buddies on a kite-making project.
Both fourth and fifth grade students in the winter Enrichment class Engineering and Design have been working in the IdeaLab to help solve a partner’s “need,” which could be waking up earlier or making a sibling’s lunch. In small groups, some children are designing a prototype for an object to solve their partner’s problem, others are designing an experience. For spring Enrichment, we are considering a class that will focus on robotics and coding.
I look forward to watching the IdeaLab evolve throughout the year – and the students’ learning with it. My level of enthusiasm is similar to that of a second grader who declared, “My favorite part about the idea lab is everything! I just love it!"
Thank you for all your support and caring.
All the best,
Director of Lower School
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