Now in its second year at Bentley’s K-8 campus, the Bentley Lab is a cross-disciplinary learning space focused on enhancing core curriculum with real-world, student centered projects that combine exploration, passions, and emerging technologies. Walk in on a given day and you may see students conducting a science investigation of sound and light, building and programming robots, designing a game or product, modelling and printing custom objects in 3D, or pursuing an independent project. Students not only learn and apply academic concepts in the Lab, but also strengthen their critical thinking, creativity, collaborative ability and resilience by tackling real-world challenges. Experimentation, failure and success are all essential parts of learning in the Bentley Lab. In addition to structured projects that apply classroom learning, students tinker, create, invent and pursue their personal projects in the Lab.
Enhancing Classroom Learning
One of the goals of the Bentley Lab is to apply skills and knowledge acquired in class to new challenges. After learning the basics of electricity and electromagnetism, third grade students apply these concepts as “game designers.” They learn the design process then create a wire loop game for their Kindergarten buddies. As part of this project, the third grade “makers” consider the needs of their Kindergarten users, use their knowledge of simple circuits to construct a functional game that activates an alarm when the circuit is closed, and incorporate aesthetic elements that make the game appealing to play.
This year, our visual and performing arts teachers further added to this interdisciplinary learning. Students choreographed a “circuit dance” in dance class and, in art class, sewed wearable “circuit” hearts that lit up for the dance performance.
In Maker Studio, a Middle School elective, students choose an independent project, develop a budget and plan, and learn new skills in pursuit of their project. Over the last year, students have undertaken a variety of projects including creating a mobile app, learning how to 3D print and assemble a prosthetic hand, fabricating fashionable duct tape wallets, and constructing a wooden cornhole game set.
This year, the Bentley Lab includes “Open Studio” time. Four days a week, students are invited to take on open-ended questions or challenges that provide many possibilities for exploration. After school on Fridays, Open Studio time is less structured. Some students mine the bins of recycled and repurposed materials to invent original creations, others take apart an electronic device, while others work on independent projects. Sabrina, a third grader who has taken sewing outside of school, uses the sewing machine to stitch together a series of student created patches made in art class. When she finishes, this patchwork will be displayed as a community art piece.
Our Underwater Robotics class takes three teams of Middle School students on a journey to design and build a submersible Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) over the course of a trimester, culminating in a regional school competition held in Monterey annually. In this class, students apply scientific and mathematical thinking in new ways to design and build a robot while learning engineering skills like soldering and 3D design. Applying the concept of circuits to design a system that can propel a real object in four different directions to achieve an intended set of underwater tasks is a formidable challenge. Students hone not only their technical savvy but also their ability to communicate and collaborate as well as project manage to meet deadlines and budget.