Building paper bridges, soldering circuit boards, and coding a computer that fits in your palm – these are all things Ridgefield Academy students do in RA's new Innovation Lab.
Incorporated into the Upper School science curriculum, the course meets once a week and allows students to think creatively about science and technology concepts. The emphasis is on doing, not memorizing. Students learn coding with the Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized computer that runs on a Linux operating system. Last year the eighth grade class elected to work on the Raspberry Pi using remote sensors with a camera. The students attached the computers to a helium balloon and programmed a remote sensor to take aerial photographs of the Ridgefield Academy campus. Teachers entered the photographs in an international photography contest. Ridgefield Academy took second place.
“Innovation Lab is like a bonus feature,” says eighth grader Annika Morgan. She and her peers say they love the class. “It’s interesting to learn how a computer thinks,” says eighth grader Robert Thompson.
“Kids learn by making things and doing things,” says teacher Deb Lasala. “We provide them the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] tools and let them be creative.” Innovation Lab, says sixth grade science teacher Joy Munro, offers students “a class to work on problems and also have free play to tinker.” Students work in a design process as opposed to the scientific method process many of their parents learned in school. “The first step of learning is to play,” says Munro. “There should be no end to that.”