The Lesley STEAM Learning Lab is a center designed to research new opportunities for learning through engagement and inquiry-based exploration. Embracing the “maker” way of knowing, this is a place for our students and community partners to play, tinker, design, and create.
The genesis for this idea was born out of our partnership with the Kennedy-Longfellow School (K-Lo), an elementary school within the Cambridge Public Schools, a research project funded through the generosity of Al Merck. Through our experience with the educators, children, and families of K-Lo, we learned that a makerspace is a remarkably fertile learning ecology, one that naturally ignites creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. Whether engaging in simple programming with KIBOs or Scratch, to complex kinetic art sculptures or 3D printing, we observed that students excelled as “makers”.
Situating this new learning ecology in our Graduate School of Education is intentional. Building something from nothing, or redesigning something to make it your own, is at the heart of the maker movement, but in many universities, this movement is oriented toward entrepreneurial outcomes. For Lesley University, we see the affordances of this divergent learning environment as a unique vehicle to re-engage our students in activities that lead to greater learning, particularly related to self-awareness and identity affirmation, perseverance, problem solving, collaboration, communication, and other skills that are needed to be fully engaged citizens in a 21st century context. This environment is also contextually-relevant for educators as the activities and resources fully support science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) content and practice standards.