Community-Based Learning in the iLab

As the snow begins to fall, the iLab’s students are digging deeper into their projects.  Students have spent the last few months researching their topics, reaching out to local experts, and getting used to the independent learning process.  This year we have seen improvement in our student’s ability to lead their own learning process, and in their willingness and interest to seek out and work with the local community.  Our increased focus on community connections has led to some awesome experiences so far this school year.

Increasing community learning opportunities has been one of the iLab’s biggest priorities this year.  We require our students to have at least one new community connection each quarter and we have seen how these community connections inspire and educate our students in a much different way than regular research.  Students that learn from experts and professionals in the community come away from those experiences with resources, ideas, and new relationships.

Here are a few examples of how our community connections are impacting our students;

Clothing Design

One of our students spends four hours a week at Amalgamated Culture Works in Burlington learning the insides and outs of the clothing business.  He spends time working with designers who create graphics using Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.  He also spends time operating and helping with the heat press, which is what puts the graphic onto the piece of clothing.  This experience has been quite powerful for our student because not only is he learning about the clothing design process, but his advisors at Culture Works have talked with him a lot about the business side of things.  This student is interested in starting his own clothing line and this experience has taught him a lot about what it means to operate a small-business.

Cancer Research

Another student of ours is doing on project on Esophageal cancer, what causes it, and ways to prevent it.  We reached out to a few doctors at UVM and Rebecca Wilcox told us she was willing to work with our student.  We quickly scheduled a visit with her and our student had an amazing experience with her.  They looked at esophagus specimens through microscope, worked with them in the PATH Lab, looked closely at infected cells, and discussed great resources on the subject.  This student also participated in the first UVM MedMentors event of the year, where we learned about different jobs and skills in the medical profession.


Many of our students have very specific projects, and we wanted to give them opportunities to explore these projects in a deeper fashion.  There are so many awesome classes being taught in the area, and we decided to sign some of our students up for these classes.  So far this semester we had a student participating in a monologue class at the Flynn, a facial drawing class at the Davis Studio, a glass-blowing glass at the Bern gallery, and private drum lessons taught by local drummer, and Winooski resident Caleb Bronz.  These students have had awesome experiences in these classes and we hope to schedule more of these opportunities in the near future.

Next Steps-

We have had success with communtiy-based learning so far this year, but we want to continue to increase this aspect of the iLab.  In the near future we have students signed up for sign-language classes at CCV, volunteering at Saint Michael’s College Fire and Rescue, interning at the ECHO and Peace and Justice Centers, visiting the Vermont Forensics Laboratory, volunteering at local graphic design companies, and possibly visiting and learning from local tattoo artists among many other things.


If you’re reading this and interested in helping the iLab out in anyway, please feel free to contact Will Andrews at gro.s1478086877loohc1478086877sdsw@1478086877swerd1478086877nAW1478086877.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)