Innovation Hub: Encounters with the Unknown

trevett in hubThe innovation hub at Hillel Day School is the centerpiece of the new Audrey and William Farber Family IDEA Collaborative.  It is unique in the Detroit area and rather cutting edge for an ECC-8 school anywhere in the United States.  It is a fully integrated center, taking up an entire wing of the school.  Several years ago, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) came onto the scene and schools rushed to create “STEM” labs.  Then it was STEAM, when it was belatedly realized that art is so much a part of science. This past year, the Maker Movement penetrated the educational world and now schools are rushing to create maker spaces. It’s similar to when iPads came onto the scene. Schools and entire districts rushed to buy them as the latest, greatest answer to education. Our innovation hub contains all of these elements, and more.

There is no single approach to education or a single methodology to successfully reach every child. Children have different strengths and interests, and schools should provide the resources and opportunities for students to explore and try all sorts of things as they discover their talents and skills.

Our innovation hub does just that. It is a unique space for classes to come to for the resources necessary to maximize project- or problem-based learning, and for individuals to come to explore and create, allowing their imagination and problem-solving skills to soar. After all, creativity at its best and most sacred is, as Abraham Joshua Herschel said, an encounter with the unknown.

The hub consists of several different components that all flow into one other for maximum use and support. Read along to learn about the spaces, the tools and rationale behind each:

The Maker Space has many interesting tools and elements – Deconstruction Table:  By taking things apart, we can begin to understand how things work. Using tools helps us learn what they’re for.  We can make connections about what is found inside and unlock hidden mysteries. Adjustable furniture:  Our tables are designed to grow with our little ones and also work for our biggest students.   Laser Cutter:  Students can design and cut their designs.  A laser cutter is a machine that uses a laser to cut and engrave material. It allows for precision cuts of wood, plastic (never PVC), and even metal.  CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Kit:  A carving tool that creates everything from decorative woodwork to machine frames and even circuit boards.  By using our tools to build new tools and objects, we truly claim the title of Maker.  In today’s world, ordinary people are becoming Makers, creating new tools and solving real-world challenges. Our children can, too!

The proto-type lab has iPads and additional laptops for students to use to program, design and imagine. 3D Printers are generally used for prototyping, making small parts that connect other parts, and for checking the results of early stages of 3D design.   They are excellent for making toys and game pieces.   Together, iPads and the 3D printer will support the beginning stages of three dimensional work so students can actually touch their designs.

Special to our innovation hub is the storage area – By placing storage in a central location, projects can easily be initiated in any part of the hub.  Tools include: Hand Tools:  The building blocks of making, tools are the equipment for taking imagination and transforming it into reality. By adding things together with hammer, nails, drills and screws, we learn to assemble.   Power tools:  Safety is always first.   Students will master safety procedures. Arduinos:  A tool for making computers that interact directly with the real world.   What they lack in power, they offer in programmability.  From simple programs turning on and off an LED or controlling a remote-controlled helicopter, Arduino is an on-ramp to programming. We will program these with our laptops. Makey Makeys:  A simple invention kit for beginners and experts doing art, engineering, and everything in-between. Making a digital piano out of bananas is a classic Makey, Makey project. Model Rockets:  We will have solid engine rockets (that burn solid fuel) and rockets that use soda bottles and pressure to fly.  We will experiment with aerodynamics and design to learn about different types of rockets and invent some new ones of our own. Sewing machines:  Students can apply real-life math concepts by sewing. We will make and create clothes, design bags and satchels, and create unique fashion accessories.  In addition, we will sew computers into clothes with conductive fabrics and chips designed for clothing! LEDs, motors, and simple electronics:  Students will learn how to make circuits, how to solder, and how to create with electronics.  Wood, PVC, metal, cardboard and other various shaping materials:  “What material is good for what?”  Exploration in the Maker Space will help answer this question. Every student who makes several prototypes will understand the idea of drafts through creation and personal experience.  They will understand through experience what it takes to make projects work, fueled by their own inspiration.

Very few schools are fortunate enough to be able to include a Greenhouse as part of innovation! Bringing nature and the creative use of the outdoors to our children will enhance all areas of the curriculum and their learning experience. It will also enable us to explore our special relationship with God as creator and our responsibility as Jews to the environment.  Accessible during all four seasons, the greenhouse will allow students to become curious observers and active inquirers. Students will be able to learn about plants as whole systems, as they grow and harvest vegetables for our lunch program; as they work with nutrition, hydroponics and pollination; and as they experiment with different habitats and climates as they relate to plant type and growth.

Making audio and video requires tools and processes just like objects.  The Audio Visual Studio will promote design principles and “fail-forward” attitudes towards risk-taking, resulting in great video and art.  Learning to design digitally requires a designated space for that kind of generative thinking.

Completing the innovation hub is an art studio, science studio, IT Help Desk, and ample open and quiet spaces both inside and on the outdoor patios for reflection, quiet work or group planning.

The innovation hub will undoubtedly spark the human and sacred impulse to create, imagine and explore the “unknown,” inspiring learning, artistry, problem-solving and so much more!





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