FABLAB@SCHOOL: "If you're serious about STEM education, you can't just do 'kits' or video classes." Wise words--and real action--from Dr. Paulo Blikstein. With his team at Stanford's Transformative Learning Technologies Lab, Dr. Blikstein has just opened the Bourn Lab at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, America's first school-based fab lab.
With all the hype around blended learning and flipped classrooms, Dr. Blikstein points out that "no one is focusing on actually designing that new classroom" where students can explore and apply newly learned content.
Outfitted with 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering kits, circuit boards, and DIY-galore, the labs provide students with ample resources and opportunities to apply knowledge as they see fit. The first lab in the FabLab@School network opened at IMEI High School in Moscow in June 2011, where a student with no prior engineering or fabrication experience produced an automatic Bach-playing flute that placed at the "Scientist of the Future" competition at the Russian Festival of Science.
This isn't just a shiny new fad. The FabLab@School team has a two-year grant with Castilleja to train teachers on curriculum integration. Dr. Blikstein points out that many programs fail because they try to scale too quickly. The hope is that a longer engagement will lead to a more sustainable model within the school. And although Castilleja is an all-girls private school, students from East Palo Alto Academy will enjoy regular access until they, along with another school in Thailand, become the next FabLab@School members.