East Coast: Meadowbrook Integration

By: Jody Henderson

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I have not been more impressed in learning anything about STEAM Education than I was this morning in meeting Susan Fisher on our visit to Meadowbrook School. Susan introduced herself alongside Jonathan Schmid, their Director of Technology, as the people responsible for their wonderfully designed and outfitted Makers’ Space, which they refer to as the "Eureka Lab". Even more impressive than the brand new spacious lab itself was Susan’s reply when asked how Design Thinking was being integrated specifically beyond the lab setting.


Up to that point Susan had presented various details of their program with a clear degree of expertise. In answering the question about integration with the school she seemed to express a more personal tone saying, “I consider myself first and foremost a curricular coach by offering all areas of the school access to the lab in ways which are relevant to their existing programs”. Susan went on to share some exciting examples how this was happening with some less obvious units of study in Language Arts and Mindfulness, and provided equally vivid summaries of how such integration occurred in the Primary and Middle grade levels.

Susan’s examples included a strong sense of reciprocity between Design Thinking and programs throughout the school. The experiences are so much more than something merely finalized by a trip to the Eureka Lab. These units of study include things like interaction with the immediate natural surroundings, and mentorship between older and younger students, requiring them to consider and plan with empathy. The projects also present students with tools they can access and use in any classroom or at home, allowing them to save, share, and receive feedback on drafts of work, which they will eventually bring to the lab.

Of particular note was a clear and upfront statement that the Eureka Lab was not intended to replace coursework students were doing or had done in any other area of the school. This was completely evident in our visit to one of their Woodworking classes, where we delightfully observed primary grade students working safely with hand tools on a wooden dinosaur project. Yet just a few feet away from the workbench full of dinosaurs, the same woodworking shop housed a state of the art CNC machine capable of handling 4’ x 8’ sheets material.
 

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Before leaving the Eureka Lab I was able to ask Susan if she would suggest any models or resources she had found specifically inspiring to the inclusive way they initiated Design Thinking at Meadowbrook. Her answer revealed a deep commitment to the school and the work of her colleagues. “Before I was involved with all of this I was the school librarian for 7 years, where I learned that the most effective work I could do was providing and connecting resources to what was already happening in classrooms throughout the school.”