Why Support WEEFC: The Field School Innovation Center

After the Owl talked about the cool stuff that WEEFC funded at the High School, she was inundated with calls and emails from the elementary school parents saying “yeah, what’s in it for me?” Oh, all right, she got one email. Are you people reading this stuff? Why not? It’s time to read, which is something you probably do better because some public school teacher somewhere took the time. Or you had a Grand Owl who sparked it, but whatever. Know how important schools are to the future of this town…and this shall be proven in the current Owl outlining the super cool Field Innovation Center.

In case you are not from here, Field School is our beautiful elementary school for fourth and fifth graders. It has a field out front, and very few trees, but that battle has long since gone by. We have a Woodland School and it does indeed have conservation woods. But I digress: this post is about the innovative instruction that is being prioritized across the Weston Public School system, and supported by funding from WEEFC (Weston Educational Enrichment Funding Committee).

Led by Field School principal Dr. Dan Green, a group of administrators and faculty recently submitted a proposal for a Field Innovation Center. According to the grant materials, the Field Innovation Center will “provide formal and informal opportunities for students to design, create, and innovate. For example, students might use 3D printers to develop a visual to augment a science project or utilize a Cricut cutter to develop a compelling art piece or history project. Whether utilizing the space as part of a standards-based activity or in a club, students will engage in the design thinking process.”

Design thinking is a key science and engineering practice emphasized throughout Weston’s K-5 curriculum. The design thinking process pushes students to identify problems, collaboratively brainstorm solutions, build prototypes, receive feedback on work from peers, and make adjustments (sometimes several times) accordingly. Students will create, innovate, and experience joy while applying design thinking in a vibrant Field Innovation Center full of tools, technology, and supportive adults.

Does this not sound fun? Yes, it does, and while the adults have their own playroom over at the Weston Art and Innovation Center makerspace, this is all about encouraging the young minds. Yes, and sometimes the adults will be invited too.

The Field Innovation Center will be housed in a large classroom at the end of the 5th grade hallway. It will include 3D printers, Cricut and laser cutters, coding equipment (e.g., Microbits and Spheros), iPads, tools, tables for students to work on, basic construction materials needed for prototyping, etc. Field students will be able to access and benefit from the space in the following ways:

1) Curricular Connections: Every class will use the Field Innovation Center to complete projects assigned in the areas of science, social studies, art, math, etc. These assignments will be built into the existing curriculum and developed by curriculum specialists (see examples below in curriculum section). Classes may also use coding equipment in fulfillment of science and engineering standards.  

2) Before and After School Clubs: The Field Innovation Center will also be used to increase before and after school club offerings. At the current time, there is high demand for our WeDo Coding Club, which meets in the library. Additional coding opportunities will be possible, while also establishing new clubs devoted to construction, design, innovation, and robotics. Existing clubs will also have access to the Field Innovation Center. For example, the Student Green Leadership Club could use the space to develop prototypes for solar paneled vehicles. The Field Student Council could use the center to produce marketing materials or hatch a plan for upcoming community service drives.  

e Cool things to be created. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

3) Expanded Library and Media Literacy Course: At the current time, every student at Field School meets in the library for 30 minutes a week. This time is used for a variety of literacy related activities (reading, finding books, and learning about library/media literacy). Some of this built-in time could be devoted to the Field Innovation Space, where students (with their classes) can code, learn about technology, and work on innovation projects.  

4) Whole School Design Challenges: Field kicked off the school year with a school-wide design challenge. Each class was tasked with using the design thinking process to repurpose plastic bags into something useful to people. Students collaborated with one another to produce some innovative products, which were celebrated at an outdoor, whole school assembly. This experience was so successful and positive that it will now be an annual tradition at the start of each year. A Field Innovation Center can support future design challenges, as it is a space where students can plan and create prototypes related to whatever the challenge may be.

5) Community Opportunities:The Field Innovation Center will be a place where students, parents, and school staff can build and/or code together. For example, PTO events could be held at night where parents and Field students, with guidance from staff, can innovate together. For example, students/parents could be given an hour with resources in the space to construct a new toy concept or invent a solution to a problem students experience at school. These experiences will further connect families to Field School by providing a space for learning and collaboration.  

Curriculum benefits

The 4/5 science curriculum will be augmented by the Field Innovation Center. For example, 5th grade students learning about Earth and its relationship to the Sun can demonstrate the relationship between size and distance using coding robots or create a sundial to measure shadows using a 3D printer. 5th grade scientists can also demonstrate their understanding of interdependence and watersheds by designing a rotating composter using the Lego Education SPIKE and BricQ. After learning about invasive plants and using design thinking to conceive of solutions, 4th grade students might use 3D printers to create their own invasive structures to combat overachiever plants.  

Links to the social studies curriculum are also strong. 5th grade historians will learn how to code robots to mark trade routes across maps of the United States. As students learn about the geography and history of different states, they can create a tour with a robot, use green screens to create commercials promoting the natural resources found in a region, and use 3D printers and Cricut cutters to construct sophisticated advertisements enticing visitors to a selected region. Similarly creative hands-on projects can be done in art, math, ELA, and Spanish classes.  

In summary…

The Field Innovation Center provides authentic and joyful learning opportunities for students. The space will be leveraged to enhance the existing curriculum while also adding more opportunities for students (and families) to code, learn about technology, and use design thinking to innovate. 

The WEEFC Board has approved this $45,000 grant request and the next step is approval by the Weston School Committee. The goal is to set up the Field Innovation Center by September 2022. Which means WEEFC needs you…to donate to support the FIC. Here’s how:

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