Update: what are we doing in our new SCIL lab? Click here for a slideshow!
“The environment is the third teacher” is something we often say as educators. It is a phrase from the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education (which informs our own emergent curriculum approach here at Grace). It means that, after a child’s family and his or her teachers, the physical space in which a child spends time has a huge effect on that child’s love of learning, ability to think creatively, and disposition to collaborate positively.
When we embrace the idea of the environment as the third teacher, that means that we strive to offer students “learning environments that . . . invite curiosity and discovery, and most importantly, foster strong, respectful relationships,” as well as “. . . flexible environments that are responsive to the need for children and teachers to construct knowledge together” (Margie Carter, “Making Your Environment ‘The Third Teacher’”). Here at Grace, you can see this belief made manifest in many spaces: from our early childhood classrooms to the music room, to upper-grade classrooms that provide flexible arrangements for all kinds of learners.
With this belief in mind, one thing became clear last year as our Innovation Committee got underway: our computer room at Grace was ready for a makeover. With rows of machines facing the wall, and students sitting with their backs to each other, it was not optimally set up for twenty-first century skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. We wanted to encourage our students to explore technology’s ability to connect us rather than its potential to isolate.
Under the guidance of our newly-appointed Director of Innovation, Christine Comas -- who had much experience with this space as our Technology teacher -- we decided that the computer room should become a makerspace. A Makerspace can be anything from a fully-outfitted technology center (complete with power tools, 3D printers, electrical circuits, etc.) to a small corner of a space outfitted with blocks, art materials, and paper. Most important, it must be a space that invites collaboration and allows for PROJECTS in PROCESS: kids should be able to return to unfinished structures and creations over the course of a few days or weeks.
With full participation from Grace students, and with the financial generosity of the Grade 5 graduating class of 2017, Mrs. Comas worked tirelessly to lead the transformation.
Below are some pictures from our newly-designed space!
As our school leader Jen Danish reminded us this morning at Grandparents and Special Friends Day, as much as we innovate and embrace positive change, we must preserve what must never change in our communities. (read the full text of her remarks here). For us at Grace, that means offering opportunities for students to take charge of their own learning by giving them opportunities for feedback, and then listening and responding.
As for the fantastically acronymic name? Our students arrived at that through a fully democratic voting process. We welcome you to come and sharpen your SCILs in our Super Creator Imagination Lab!