iLab Update – Half-Year Highlights

As Christmas break gets closer by the minute, I have taken some time to reflect on the first half of the year in the iLab.  From summer planning meetings, to global connections, this half-year has been an amazing learning experience for teachers and students alike.

Here are some of the iLab’s half-year highlights;

Acceptance and Share-it Nights -

In an effort to better explain our program, increase school and community buy-in, and give our students a chance to tell the iLab story, we created the Acceptance and Share-it Nights.

The Acceptance Night happened in early October and was created as an opportunity for parents, students, and teachers to get together and tour the iLab, ask any burning questions, and hear about the iLab’s unique learning process.  We felt that meeting with parents and students at the beginning of the year would help us get our program up and running, and at the same time allow for parents to find out about the inner-workings of the iLab.  Our first Acceptance Night was a success.  We had nearly all of our fifty student’s parents in attendance, awarded our students with custom-designed t-shirts, and everyone left feeling inspired, informed, and excited about the coming year.

The iLab’s first Share-it Night happened in late November.  Share-it Night is a chance for our students to share their projects with the community in a “science fair” format.  Share-it Night is also a required event for all of our students and it occurs a total of three times throughout the year.  The first Share-it Night is a time for our students to introduce their projects to the community.  Before Share-it Night officially began our students were super nervous, running around making last minute changes, and gripping about the length of their presentations, but when it was over students were confident, motivated, and ready for another hour worth of conversations.  We felt Share-it Night was a total success because by this point in the year our students have totally bought into the iLab concept and are running with their projects.  Their presentations at Share-it Night were vibrant, interactive, and personal.  The student’s have gained ownership over their learning process in the iLab, and their ownership over their projects has never more evident than during Share-it Night.

Student Projects/Community Connections – 

The foundation of the iLab is student projects.  They lead the learning, inspire the learners, and showcase the innovation happening in our classroom.  In the iLab, each student studies what they love and create a learning plan based on that topic.  In order to ensure success, we let students take time brainstorming, researching, and trying out different project ideas to allow our students to find a topic that will inspire them throughout the whole year.  This year our students have picked some fantastic project ideas and here is a sample of what some of our  students are working on;

Languages – Students are using Rosetta Stone and Virtual High School to learn languages that aren’t offered in Winooski like Swedish, German, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

Computer Based Projects –  Many of our students are interested in computer related topics and are working with computers in various ways.  Some of our computer based projects include video game animation, graphic design, Photoshop and Adobe programming language, building a PC for the iLab from scratch, video editing and production, code writing, and website design.

Writing and Publishing –  Two of our students are working on writing and publishing their first books (one is a self-help book for teens and the other is the first part of a Hunger Games-esque trilogy) and two of our students are focusing on writing, recording, and performing their first hip-hop albums.

Photography and Art – Many of our students are learning about photography from local experts, one of our students has started a community-based photojournalism project called The Humans of 802 (based on the Humans of New York Project), and two of our students, inspired by Banksy, have started to learn about and practice their own unique brand of street art.

Nutrition and Well-Being – Many of our student-athlete’s projects are based on fitness, sports medicine, exercise science, and overall personal nutrition.  Most of these students are working with UVM College of Medicine students to get hands on experience in the fields they are interested in studying.

Culture – Due to Winooski’s diverse population, the iLab has found itself housing many internationally themed projects.  We have students focusing on studying Doctor’s Without Borders, similarities and differences between Somali and American weddings, cultural differences throughout Africa and the world, and global nursing and health careers.

Basically the iLab students are doing incredible work everyday, all day.

Future Plans -

The iLab is a growing, living entity.  We are working on improving its structure everyday and looking for ways to improve our student’s experience every class.  Some of our future goals include increasing our number of student internships within the community, reaching out to more community partners and experts, bringing our students to experience successful businesses throughout Chittenden County, spreading the iLab program to other schools in the area (including BHS), doubling the number iLab students at the beginning of next year, and piloting full-time, Big Picture School style learning within the iLab.

Thanks for reading and if you are interested in helping out or visiting the iLab, please feel free to contact Will at WAndrews@wsdschools.org

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