The Junior School imagination lab provides a space for our youngest students to explore, create and practice the skills necessary to become problem solvers, innovators and entrepreneurs. Our future graduates will need to address challenges in the world not yet anticipated, with technologies not yet imagined, in order to improve and thrive in the world in which they will live.
Our JS iLab is a joyful hive of activity. Walls full of brightly coloured, inspiring materials are deliberately placed in open bins for young hands to explore. Endless supplies of recycled cardboard (from our pizza day boxes), fabric ends and plastic lids beckon to be turned into treasures. The lab is also equipped with glue guns, laptops, iPads, a laser cutter and a 3D printer to enhance our learning. These materials and tools all help students to design, and create prototypes while building STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) skills. However, it often comes as a surprise to visitors that our iLab experiences are also deeply rooted in the so called ‘soft skills’ of our Portrait of a Learner Qualities. Each month the lab focuses on a different quality such as curiosity, balance, collaboration, initiative, empathy, resilience and integrity.
STEAM learning and Social Emotional learning go hand in hand. Helping students to develop resilience is central to conquering engineering challenges. Empathy is at the root of the design thinking model, and where would we be without innate curiosity and initiative to drive our creative ideas? At the Junior School, students are challenged to work through the design thinking process to answer questions such as:
“How might we take initiative to seek out and solve problems in our environment?”
“How might we use resilience to take on new challenges, change what we’re doing if something doesn’t work and not be afraid to fail?”
“How might we practice empathy to help students to feel happy and supported at SMUS?”
Students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 are inspired by stories of Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and our own SMUS alumni, Anne Makosinski, to realize that you are never too young to make a difference. Examples of inventions generated in the iLab last month when we focused on the quality of initiative include:
- A garbage can that lights up and plays music when an item is placed inside so that children will be more inclined to use it.
- A refillable, wall mounted toothpaste dispenser that eliminates the need for plastic tubes.
- A robot referee equipped with cameras to ensure that all unsportsmanlike behaviour is seen and calls are fair and unquestionable.
- A vacuum that you can attach to your dog so that it can help out with housework (it comes with earmuffs if your dog is scared of loud noises).
- A card game based on a video game so that students can have less screen time while still enjoying the entertaining aspects of video games.
- A hat with a built-in tissue dispenser for those winter days when you have a cold and don’t want to run inside at recess to find a kleenex.
Our youngest learners are amazingly creative. Thinking outside the box, creating new worlds, blending two seemingly unrelated ideas and joyfully tinkering often comes naturally to them. Our imagination lab gives students the time, space and materials needed to develop crucial problem solving and critical thinking skills, while also nurturing them as caring individuals who will seek out problems, come up with unique solutions and help to make our world a better place.
As Einstein once said, “imagination is the language of the soul.” This month, lessons in the iLab are focused on the quality of resilience. Practicing a growth mindset while exploring STEAM challenges is sure to nourish our imaginative souls now and in the future.