New Elementary Innovation Hubs

New Elementary Innovation Hubs Empower Students, Staff
Posted on 09/10/2019
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WE are Empowered features different activities in Lakota's elementary innovation hubsLakota’s elementary school media centers, turned innovation hubs, still offer shelves of books to enjoy - but they are also now complete with virtual reality stations, video production green screen rooms, a sound recording booth, a 3D printer and even modernized furniture to help facilitate authentic, future-ready learning. 


“If we are truly going to make the shift to personalized, student-centered learning, we have to give our students and staff the innovative spaces and tools that support that model,” said Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller. “Our Innovation Hubs are designed with that exact purpose in mind.” 


Following last year’s media center transformations at the juniors schools and high schools, Lakota’s eight elementary schools followed suit this past summer, using mostly district-provided funds to refurbish the space. 


“The whole goal was to provide a space that becomes an extension of the classroom where students can come and begin exploring new ways to capture their learning, express their ideas and share their voice,” said Innovation Specialist Jennifer Neubarth, who is supporting the elementary hub rollout at all eight schools.


Jessica Carelli is the innovation specialist supporting both Union and VanGorden elementary schools and is helping teachers and students view the space through a similar lens as her. That is, “a collaborative space where students and staff can reimagine the possibilities of learning.” 


And for Carelli and her colleagues, those possibilities are endless. From video conferencing with other classes or experts (across the district or around the world) to taking a virtual field trip or 3D printing an object they designed, the whole idea is to be an extension of the curriculum while giving students choice in how they learn the content.


That concept has no boundaries when it comes to the grade levels or subject areas that can benefit from the hub either. 


“We want teachers to begin every lesson with the question, ‘How can I use the hub to...fill in the blank?’ Ultimately, I want to see every single student pass through the hub at least once every week,” said Lori Vanover, the innovation specialist at Cherokee and Endeavor elementary schools.


Just a few of those lessons elementary innovation specialists are dreaming up alongside their teachers for the upcoming year: 


  • At Woodland, using virtual reality to “visit” Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon for a unit on national parks.

  • At Independence, making green screen videos, podcasts and buttons created in the makerspace to promote the school’s “Socktober Social Collection Drive.” 

  • At Adena, an ESL class using virtual reality to take a trip back to their home countries.

  • At Endeavor, supporting a project based learning social studies lesson about empathy and community support. Students will research natural disasters and then create authentic public service announcements, radio commercials, videos and more, based on their interests. 


“Teachers are already using the hub as more of a collaborative space for their students, instead of just a 30-minute book checkout time,” said Kim Carlson, who supports both Independence and Woodland elementary schools “We want students to use the tools to work in groups more effectively and turn their ideas into reality through technology.” 


With many of the schools already forming hub squads - students tasked with becoming the experts and promoting the hub’s purpose - student voice and ownership in the space is a critical component to its success. In fact, Vanover has challenged every class that has visited the hub to start thinking about how they want to use the space and then share their ideas with their teachers.


In the first few weeks of school, “Hub Hops” have encouraged students to explore the new space during their first visit through station rotations. Their initial reaction - lots of wide eyes and finger pointing, according to Carrelli - is followed by a flurry of excitement. 


When asked what his favorite part was, Endeavor fourth-grader Edson Rai couldn’t decide and said, “Everything!” 


“This space is a perfect extension of the world for which our students needs to be prepared,” said Caitlin Huxel, representing Adena and Freedom elementary schools. “I’m hopeful it will be a launch pad for sparking students’ creativity, curiosity and imagination.”