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Student Learning and Engagement in the Elementary SmartLab

Monday and Tuesday of this week I was privileged to travel to Denver CO to observe 21st century learning firsthand. This visit, organized by Creative Learning Systems allowed myself and Kate Schippers our Library Media Specialist as well as Jeff Zoul from the teaching and learning dept. and Scott Schwartz from Walden elementary to visit schools that are on the cutting edge of preparing students for the 21st century. Future ready schools must be places of inspiration where students are free to explore. Rather than viewing math and science as something disconnected and learned only when sitting in a desk the SmartLab engages students in hands on work and learning that fosters curiosity and creativity.


The elementary smartlab goes way beyond a computer lab or a high tech classroom. Students work in collaborative groups on a variety of projects related to Science, Technology, Math, Engineering, and Creative Media Arts. Topics of exploration include:

• Mechanics and Structures
• Computer Graphics
• Science and Data Acquisition
• Publishing and Multimedia
• Alternative and Renewable Energy
• Robotics and Control Technology
• Circuitry

At Slavens School in Denver, students in the Smartlab come in and get right to work on their projects. In one instance,

Elementary students have the opportunity to design items and print in 3D.

The elementary Smartlab at Martinez Elementary in Colorado Springs

Students explain their project to Mrs. Schippers. All engagements in the SmartLab are meant to be collaborative with at least two students working together on a project.

Students in the Smartlab explore over 300 possible engagements or learning pathways. Part of the engagements has students generate questions, as you can see in the example above. Students then predict, investigate, build, and explore in order to answer their questions. In addition to this they document their progress in a journal.

Above is functional rotating ferris wheel engineered and built by students. I was blown away by the effort, determination, and precision it took to make this.

This machine, also built by students, circulates 3 balls on different pathways throughout the mechanism simultaneously.

I was amazed at the learning taking place in the SmartLabs we visited. In addition, I was impressed at how many 21st century skills were incorporated such as teamwork and problem solving. In the elementary SmartLab students have an opportunity to synthesize their learning from math, science, as well as language arts into authentic learning experiences.

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One Comment

  1. Mike Lubelfeld

    Outstanding and inspiring!

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