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Irvine Innovation Lab Turns Students Into Dynamic Creators

Irvine School Innovation Lab Turns Students Into Dynamic Creators
PHOTOGRAPH: Irvine Public Schools Foundation | Students had a blast learning and exploring at Irvine Public School Foundation’s Enrichment Day 2017.

When an Irvine elementary school opened a brand new classroom called the Innovation Lab for all its students to use, it showed a glimpse of things to come on the cusp of the mid-21st century. The “classroom of the future” that was facilitated by a generous grant may be likened to a virtual field trip.

The non-profit organization Irvine Public Schools Foundation raised funds and awarded a $211,850 grant for Culverdale’s Innovation Lab. It not only paved the way for students to benefit from a cartful of laptops but also let them control gadgets that previously were the stuff of the youngsters’ dreams. More importantly, the philanthropic act is deemed to have far-reaching effects well into the youth’s future.

The young learners got to instruct robots to maneuver their way out of a maze. They also learned to use a green screen to film news reports from the British colonial times. Some even found the opportunity to create an action video game using a free programming language called Scratch.

Classroom of the Future

By letting today’s classrooms transform into a futuristic one, with innovations within students’ reach, educators are letting students assimilate knowledge and eventually evolve into creative-thinking and tech-savvy professionals someday. The main advantage is that there is no magic school bus necessary to transport them to that futuristic world.

A key purpose of the lab, which took the place of an outdated one, is to equip students with skills that are necessary for the 21st century. Apart from critical thinking and communication, the leadership trait of collaboration and creativity will hopefully be ingrained. All these traits and abilities are “transferable to many jobs,” Culverdale Principal Aaron Jetzer said.

The intention is really to give the kids choices in obtaining an educational experience like no other, as well as autonomy while nurturing young minds to probe and explore. The students are encouraged to embrace things that are of interest to them. The well-equipped lab opened in August but had since added new and interesting features in step with the times.

Early Exposure to a Vibrant Scientific Culture

By incorporating modern technological tools in the school curriculum and exposing students early on to a vibrant scientific culture, educators are laying the groundwork for critical thinking. The good thing about it, the principal noted, is that the students get so engaged using the modern innovations. It does not take much prodding to get them started on the exploration.

A teacher at Culverdale shared that his approach is to set a challenge and deadline for students, then step back and simply do some coaching. Deviating from the traditional teach method, he said, allows young learners to keep on discovering things and communicating with each other.  In many instances, students are graded based on how they are working through the process rather than their final products, thereby encouraging them to take risks and not to fear failure.

The other main purpose of the modern laboratory is really to prepare students for future careers, which will most probably entail utilization of future technology. It can be said that investing in young people’s dreams is a worthwhile endeavor.

In addition to the Innovation Lab, the school also used the grant obtained to install 17 Space virtual reality learning machines at its science lab. Students wear 3D glasses and use a stylus for moving and rotating objects on the screen, and produce works on a 3D printer. Indeed, learning has never been more fun and high-tech.

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