The Urban School was founded in 1966 and prides itself on its use of technology and innovation. The school has adopted blended learning models, offering courses through a LMS and video conferencing but also maintaining teaching contact time. They were also in the middle of constructing a new lab. This was my first exposure to listening about how they developed and implemented their STEM curriculum which they cleverly market under the name ‘Urban X Labs’.
During the presentation I found myself reflecting on how our curriculum differs. Urban School offers courses on electronics, coding, robotics and graphic design. Courses we would offer under a Design and Technology learning area but they also include Physics and Science under their X Labs umbrella. It sparked in me a rethink of how we resource each of our learning areas. Most schools have Science Labs with Science Lab Technicians. A Materials and Design and Technology Department with its own unique equipment and Technicians. It became increasingly apparent that by creating a flexible lab equipped with resources from multiple learning areas it creates an opportunity to blend, innovate and develop cross curricular activities that promote critical thinking, problem solving and higher order thinking. It would provide these connections in such an organic way.
Whilst we didn’t see it in action, I was happy to see that the curriculum leaders has a chance to develop courses and commit to project based learning (PBL) activities all before they designed and built their lab.
It reminded me of a powerful image I once saw at a conference about a garden with beautiful lawns where students had ignored paved paths, wearing away the lawn and trodden through garden beds. A contemporary thinker would have planted grass everywhere and after seeing where people walk then plan out where to place paths and garden beds.
This contemporary thinking was evident at Urban School and we heard of how other local schools funded amazing labs only for them to be empty.
What a great way to start the tour.