Designing a Space for Collaboration and Hands-On Learning for the FFS Community
The IDEA Lab’s new location couldn’t be more fitting — it sits at the heart of the FFS campus, facing the Meeting House. Immediately upon walking into the airy, new 2,500 square foot space, it’s more than clear: this is where Project-Based Learning is meant to take place.
Here, students and teachers can collaborate together, explore real-world topics in a hands-on environment, and make learning visible by bringing ideas, prototypes, and presentations to the forefront. Doing research in the mezzanine, huddling together with classmates in the brainstorming zone, drawing up plans at the tables and projecting them overhead for the class to critique, learning to be engineers, coders, and designers, and presenting work on the stage for all to see… Thanks to the careful design of our planning committee, our faculty and staff, and the hard work of Digsau’s architects and CVM’s builders, the new FFS IDEA Lab is ready for our students in grades Pre-K through Eight to take action on the solutions they find to problems we face.
Sample Units in Action: Middle School: Focused Science/PBL Studies
Middle School students study science through a Project-Based Learning lens, with three major units each year that focus on studies of Earth, Life, and Physical Science. Taking place in the IDEA Lab, the work engages students in learning that is deep and long-lasting, while blending content mastery, meaningful work, and personal connection to create powerful learning experiences for Middle School students. Humanities and Math connections are embedded in the work as well; other subject area teachers take responsibility for contributing authentic content for each project that directly connects to student learning.
Defining an experience based on a single account gives us incomplete and potentially damaging understandings of other people or situations. Sixth graders begin the year by looking at the nature of science and how scientists think. In large part, thinking like a scientist is about being a skeptic, and the students recognized that curiosity, perseverance and the ability to solve problems are qualities they all possess. They learn that scientists use many approaches in their work to effectively communicate what they observe (and how this can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or gaps in the ways the facts are presented to a general audience).
Sports can be powerful demonstrations of pushing the human body to its limits, but they are equally powerful demonstrations of science as well — from engineering of the equipment and uniforms, to the structure of living things, to the physics behind performing every motion. To analyze how science and sports are related, seventh graders look at a common sport that has been played by most everyone: minigolf! Students study how the human body works together to help athletes meet with success through supplying energy, controlling processes, and the interaction of systems. They look at the physics involved through studying forces and motion; speed, velocity and acceleration; friction and gravity.
Eighth graders learn to act like epidemiologists! In order to understand the role epidemiology plays in responding to disease outbreaks and protecting public health, students investigate the persistence of disease and pandemics throughout history. They will look to answer several questions: How have epidemic and pandemic diseases shaped humanity? What weaknesses and strengths can pandemics expose in a society? What role should leaders, in government and elsewhere, play in controlling the spread of infectious disease? What does it mean to be a “good citizen” in the context of a pandemic? Students will understand the factors that stimulate the growth of pandemics and how improvements to healthcare can be powerful tools in mitigating their spread.