ECS Innovation Hubs Filled with Fun Tools

New ECS Innovation Hubs Filled with Fun Learning Tools
Posted on 02/13/2020
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collage of students in innovation hubsVirtual reality, robots, green screens, and books? Yes! They are all part of Lakota’s newly unveiled Innovation Hubs at its early childhood schools (ECS).

“The K-2 Innovation Hubs provide not only a space for our youngest learners to foster their love of reading through access to books, but now also serve as an extension of our classrooms by providing a space for students to explore, create, and collaborate through a variety of digital tools and hands-on activities!” said Director of Digital Learning Krista Heidenreich

The wait is over for Lakota’s youngest learners as they’ve gotten to explore their redesigned media centers over the past few weeks. What started as a pilot program at Heritage Early Childhood School in the fall has now expanded to the district’s five other buildings. Lizzie Porter is very excited about all of the building options. “It’s really fun and I like to build,” she said. The Wyandot kindergartner is also happy that she is able to borrow new library books each week, noting that author Mo Willems’ “Elephant and Piggie” series is her favorite.

The new learning spaces include technology tools, tinkering and maker space materials. Students are able to “problem solve, design, build and collaborate with magnets, marbles, wood planks and many other manipulatives,” explained Heidnereich.

Over at Shawnee ECS, Principal Kevin Thomas knew what he wanted out of the new learning space. As one the first early childhood schools to have a STEAM Lab, now called Wonder Labs, three years ago, he said they already had an idea as to “what mattered here in the Hub.” With the main focus of his Wonder Lab being tinkering,Thomas is excited to have technology play an integral role in learning in the Hub. 

“I think it’s a pretty cool place,” said Shawnee second-grader Nathan Flory, who’s most excited to start using the 3-D printer. “You can make stuff. I just find that amazing.” What tops his list of things to make? “A fake pencil.”

Flory’s classmate Simon Reeve is hoping to explore history using the new virtual reality goggles. “I’m hoping to see World War I and World War II,” he explained.

One of Thomas’ favorite new additions are high-top computer tables with white board writing surfaces. The students are able to sit at the tables while their teacher leads a lesson, then access the school’s Chromebooks to continue their learning. He’s very grateful to his PTA, which donated a charging cart with 30 new Chromebooks to the school.

Thomas put an emphasis on different types of seating throughout the space. Along with the computer tables, the space includes soft seating, kneeling and standing options at different stations. Flexible seating is an important element in all of the new Innovation Hubs. “The flexible space will allow for individual, small group and whole group activities,” said Heidenreich.

“With the launch of our Innovation Hub concept at our Early Childhood Schools, new and expanding learning opportunities are now available to all Lakota students as part of our WE are Empowered initiative,” Chief Technology Officer Todd Wesley said. “Each Hub has its own personality, reflecting each school’s students and staff. They will continue to evolve to best support student hands-on, real-world exploration, learning, engagement and voice, along with evolving instructional and technology innovations.”

The district’s six ECS principals collaborated to create a vision for the transformation. While each school’s space is personalized, the underlying goal is to have students reflect, create and explore. “I want to make sure this is purposeful,” noted Thomas.

And that’s the goal for Heidenreich, too. “The Innovation Hubs not only support communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, which are all important future ready skills for our students, but also serve as an exciting and energizing common space where students can come together to strengthen their learning community!”

Wesley is very pleased with the results. “The transformation of these spaces has truly been a district wide collaboration and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. However, nothing beats the excitement and wonder of our youngest students as they explore their new Hubs!”.

Click here to watch a short video for a peek inside the Innovation Hubs.