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Conversations with Barrington Teachers: Part 1 The Power of the iCreate Space

In late 2017, we had the opportunity to catch up with the Barrington High School teachers. They had so much to say about their work in the iCreate Space, a maker space that was set up as part of the Fuse Architect project. They can see excitement rising outside of the core Fuse Architect team and a growing interest in the use of the space.

There’s a lot of ripple effect, and I think that makes this worth it. Many teachers outside of the iCreate lab are wondering what’s going on down there. “What are they doing?” “What is it?”

Barrington students are talking to the other teachers who are not involved in Fuse Architect about it and getting them excited to be involved. The kids are always asking, “When are we going back to the lab?” And the nice part for new teachers who haven’t worked in the space is that there are opportunities for them to learn and be supported.

“I come into the iCreate lab often. I’ll walk through and hear teachers and students collaborating in an organic way.” For example, one teacher will be talking about a project that’s going on in a classroom, but the other teacher at the table says, “Oh, wow. I could be doing something like that.” Or “This maybe could work for me.” And because the teachers are meeting in the iCreate lab and the students are often in there too, students chime in and say, “Yes, that was boring. You should switch it up.” Our teachers at Barrington are willing to go forward with these risks and techniques and proposals if they can see something positive. And one thing you’ll see about the Barrington school system is people will not abandon the old way, but they’ll modify rapidly to keep up with student learning.

“It is student-centered learning in this building. Our kids are in real-world projects. One student a year or so ago worked on sustainable solar power for Syrian refugee camp while another one traveled with the Boston Symphony to Japan after the tsunami and played at the shelters there. So good things happen. Good things really happen. If we load students down with nonsense, those things aren’t going to happen. This year with the iCreate lab we have kids actually working on a project designing wells for Swaziland and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of our former students is in the Peace Corps 10 miles away from where the well project was. So as part of the Thirst Project, our school will be sponsoring the building of wells in Swaziland. There are nine students working on it as part of the Environmental Club. Because of the many interesting projects students are doing that are tied to the lab, teachers who are not part of the original design team are becoming interested in being part of the space.”

“Many teachers are asking to be part of iCreate now that they see what this space is capable of and how engaged the students are.” This year, it has been important to see students and teachers who are not directly involved getting excited about the space. It’s also nice to know that professional development will be available to the teachers who want to use the space. The teachers said to me yesterday, “I want to know how this works.” I think the better and most effective teachers are the ones that provide the environment for learning. This is a perfect environment for learning. The kids are starting to see the promising aspects of the space, and students who would normally not be in there are coming in. And there you go – All of a sudden all, we’re getting right to what I think our initial vision was. We don’t have a destination, and I don’t think we should have a destination.

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