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Conversation with Barrington Principal & Assistant Superintendent: The Value of the iCreate Space

“Our students are really working in the iCreate Lab already, and it’s exciting to see.”

Given what is happening on a national and international level, the students have decided that there’s been all this controversy around Civil War memorials. So they’re interviewing professors from Brown and Boston University regarding it. They’re also studying the historical aspects of slavery in the United States. Then they are creating a memorial in the iCreate lab, or in their class, depending on how they wanted to approach it, that’s respectful of the events and of the human condition. So that’s one of the projects that is happening.

We have some girls actually quilting. Some are using the SolidWorks software, some are using 3D printers, some are doing a traditional video, or paper. Another student is working on the Thirst Project. He asked to meet with us. We asked him to think about how to get other students involved. He has about seven or eight kids who are interested in doing it with him. What the Thirst project does, it investigates from an engineering and from a human aspect how you can get clean water to places and to people who are without. And so we have a similar project that we do in our pre-engineering class that the teacher runs. But this one would be completely student-led in conjunction with the organization. The student didn’t even want credit for it – he just wanted to make a difference because he is passionate about helping others. It’s all about deeper learning competencies. These projects are what happens as we let go and empower the students to do really amazing things.

As mentioned by the teachers, there are not as many girls in STEM classes. For example, pre-engineering and CAD are predominantly boys. Because of this space, there are more and more girls coming in and then we’re seeing huge increases in enrollment in our classes that had been more gender divided. It is an outcome we wanted, but we didn’t actually set it, and we’re just kind of seeing it naturally happen. So down the road, this situation might expand so much where we have to rethink our needs and space.

“Another piece of the puzzle is understanding how to show the community the impact of the work we’re doing.”

In a community like this that really values highly on the performance on standardized assessments, how do we show that this is as valuable as being strong in your content knowledge? There is so much more to this, especially the applications for it. So family buy-in is important. For example, right now we know on our science assessments that the state know that we’re never going to do as well as we used to because we have opted not to teach earth science at the high school level as its own stand-alone course. Our kids have really wanted more of the hands-on biology, physics, and chemistry. When it comes to AP assessments, when it comes to SAT subject tests, when it comes to all other measures, our kids are at the top of the country. So does it matter that our state assessment is showing a decline? I don’t know that it does, but that’s something that we have to figure out and communicate and decide did we make the right decision.

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