The Ulmer Family Light Lab Opens Its Doors!
Friends’ Central Launches Groundbreaking Center for Student Innovation
On Friday, October 21, 2016, Friends’ Central unveiled The Ulmer Family Light Lab, a cutting-edge facility dedicated to creation and innovation for students in Nursery School through grade 5. Lower School students and faculty, parents, Board members, administrators, and alumni/ae were on hand for the grand opening of this groundbreaking building, making it a truly momentous occasion.
“Today is a very special day in the life and history of our remarkable school,” announced Head of School Craig N. Sellers, who welcomed the more than 300 people in attendance. Kelly Bird Pierre, Lower School Principal, shared, “Today marks the opening of The Ulmer Family Light Lab, an unprecedented space for 3-11 year olds to participate in Maker Education. The philosophy of Maker Education has always informed what teachers at FCS have done, and this facility will allow us to build upon our work by expanding the tools and shared spaces that are available and that have been chosen and designed explicitly for our youngest students to engage in this type of work.”
Designed by Barba+Wheelock and constructed by E. Allen Reeves, the Light Lab brings together Friends’ Central’s creative faculty with cutting-edge design, increased space, and a plethora of resources. All these tools combine to offer young learners the very best opportunities to innovate and create. The Light Lab houses four makerspace studios in the areas of natural sciences, fabrication, media & computing, and design, allowing teachers to build on the integrated curriculum that already exists in the Lower School by providing students with the space and tools to acquire a deeper understanding of and connection to their learning.
The construction of The Ulmer Family Light Lab was made possible by the generosity of the Friends’ Central community, particularly the $1 million gift donated by Rich Ulmer, Friends’ Central Class of 1960, and his wife, Bev.
The construction of The Ulmer Family Light Lab was made possible by the generosity of the Friends’ Central community, particularly the $1 million gift donated by Rich Ulmer, Friends’ Central Class of 1960, and his wife, Bev. Rich and Bev were in attendance and proudly cut the ribbon at the grand opening, officially opening The Ulmer Family Light Lab for Friends’ Central’s youngest “makers.”
Addressing the Ulmer family, Sellers stated, “On behalf of everyone at Friends’ Central, thank you for your leadership in helping us make this dream come true.”
Since opening its doors in October
The Light Lab has become a repository for an avalanche of student creativity, enabling 3-year-olds to 11-year-olds to take advantage of these new facilities to bring their ideas to life. Students now have myriad opportunities to create, invent, and learn with tools such as 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters, sewing machines, woodworking tools, art supplies, software for animation, filmmaking, recording music, and more.
The Light Lab’s Natural Sciences Studio elevates the importance of Friends’ Central’s already thriving farm-to-table program in the Lower School. Students spend several hours outside each week tending a large community garden that provides a portion of food used to feed students, faculty, and staff for lunch, and in the new Solarium and full kitchen in the Natural Sciences Studio, students are gardening year-round and using hydroponics and vertical farming solutions to provide even more fresh items for the Lower School menu. In the aeroponic towers, students have already begun harvesting Swiss chard, cucumbers, arugula, kale, and leaf lettuce.
In the Fabrication Studio, which houses the most equipment of any studio, students can research, design, and bring their inventions to life using a wide variety of tools – from computer-aided design software and professional laser cutter to saws, hammers, nails, and plywood, as well as a sewing station and dynamic furniture with whiteboard tabletops. Brie Daley, Light Lab Director, explains, “This range and versatility make it feel like a place where nearly anything could be made and hopefully will be as time progresses.” Students are bringing to life many lessons they are learning in the classroom, including the construction of wooden covered wagons during the study of Laura Ingalls Wilder and life on the prairie, sewing costumes for class plays, creating an interactive display board, 3D design and printing of Roman coins, building cardboard prototype castles using design thinking, and making light-up paper circuit Valentine’s Day cards.
The Design Studio is the most flexible of all the studios, with lots of natural light from the beautiful skylights. Fully stocked with a wide variety of art supplies, from paints, paper, pastels, and watercolors to an assortment of recyclables for designing, as well as two vinyl cutters, a library of Little Bits, and an unfinished plywood floor for worry-free messes, the space has been used for large-format art projects like murals, scenery for plays, and life-sized models. Daley shares, “The Design Studio holds an abundance of materials to embellish and beautify projects from an artistic standpoint. It doesn’t house any large equipment which makes the space truly flexible; when tables are moved out, there’s enough room for multiple classes to collaborate on something like the 30-foot painted boa constrictor that KB made while studying the rainforest or life-sized body systems in the third grade’s study of the human body.”
“Friends’ Central teachers have always been tuned in to the fact that children learn more when they are active participants, making and doing. These four new flexible spaces will allow us to expand the opportunities for our little ones even further and to continue striving towards our Mission and Vision.”
Light Lab Director
The Media and Computing Studio boasts a full green screen, electronics, robotics equipment, and a soundproof recording room for students to explore the world of filmmaking, animation, programming, and music editing. Since the opening of the Light Lab, the Media and Computing Studio has been buzzing with activity. Pre-KB students filmed their road trip movie in front of the green screen, and grade 5 students worked in the recording studio and used the green screen to shoot their Silk Road commercials. Additionally, this studio is the hub for after-school clubs like Robotics and Coding Cafe.
“Young children have so many powerful ideas that they are bursting to share with others,” Daley says. “Friends’ Central teachers have always been tuned in to the fact that children learn more when they are active participants, making and doing. These four new flexible spaces will allow us to expand the opportunities for our little ones even further and to continue striving towards our Mission and Vision.”
Read about the Ulmer Family Light Lab in action, to see how Friends’ Central students are already making use of this wonderful facility
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