Record Attendance at AFDC 2017

Over 100 SmartLab facilitators attended AFDC 2017 at The Englewood Campus (CO) last week. Educators from around the country (and as far away as El Salvador!) took time from their summer break to attend Creative Learning Systems' annual week-long workshop. 

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first SmartLab in 1987, the theme of this year's conference was "30 Years of Making Makers". The keynote speaker was Ray Ramadorai, a middle school student in the first SmartLab who is now a successful aerospace engineer. His address inspired the attendees and provided a privileged glimpse into the long-term impact of their work as a SmartLab facilitator.  

Attendees learned about the latest in STEM/STEAM technology and project-based, student-centered facilitation techniques. In addition to a wide range of hands-on workshops and seminars, the daily "Share Fair" once again provided an opportunity for facilitators to share student work and learn best-practice classroom and SmartLab management strategies from their peers. 

Thanks to all who attended, our dedicated conference staff, and to Englewood School District for hosting this years' conference.

Over one-hundred SmartLab Facilitators attended AFDC 2017

SmartLab Facilitators show off their Zometool mega-dodecahedron project

China Delegation Visits Colorado SmartLabs

Colorado SmartLabs recently hosted a delegation of school administrators from Guangzhou Province, China. The purpose of the delegation's visit was to learn about American innovations in STEM education and how similar methods might be applied in Chinese schools.

The group visited SmartLabs at Englewood Middle and High School in Englewood School District and Samuels and Beach Court Elementary in Denver Public Schools. In addition to visiting with students, teachers and administrators at each school, Tom Boasberg, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, also met with the group and surprised them with his fluent command of both Mandarin and Cantonese. 

The tour was organized by Hong Qi Wagner from Zonekey Education Technology. Zonekey and Creative Learning Systems entered into a joint venture agreement last year to bring SmartLabs to China. Ms. Wagner said that the group was very impressed with the Colorado SmartLab programs and several members of the China delegation were interested in exploring similar programs in their schools.    

Transforming School Culture Through STEM

A Colorado elementary school is undergoing a cultural revival after just a year of hands-on learning with a Creative Learning Systems SmartLab. 

“It’s incredible what you see, what you hear,” said Cherrelyn Elementary School Principal Eva Pasiewicz. “We have a different energy!”

Cherrelyn Elementary School in Englewood, Colorado, implemented a Creative Learning Systems SmartLab last year after receiving a grant to provide innovative, 21st-century learning opportunities at their school.

Since experiencing all the lab has to offer her more than 200 students, it’s hard for Principal Eva Pasiewicz to imagine education without the hands-on learning a SmartLab fosters. “The creativity they’re allowed to have in that classroom is incredible” said Pasiewicz” 

The projects appeal to all learning types and are amazing on their own, Pasiewicz said, but what impresses her most is the ripple effect the lab has on the rest of the school day and beyond. 

Pasiewicz said the lab is creating a different culture of learning, boosting Cherrelyn’s existing STEM-based curriculum. “The skills our students acquire in the SmartLab are showing up in other classroom work as well.”

“There is so much learning about how to get along with people, how to make decisions and figuring out road blocks,” she said. “I can just go on and on about all of the learning of the soft skills.” 

“That’s what STEM is all about,” Pasiewicz said. “It’s really turned us into a more challenging yet more inviting learning environment. The kids are challenged at these high levels and they love it and they want more.” 

When asked what students do in the SmartLab, Pasiewicz laughed. 

“Everything!” she said. “They do robotics. They code.  … It’s incredible what you see, what you hear.” 

Pasiewicz said the lab appeals to students of all learning types, from the introspective thinker to the busy, hands on learner. 

It’s also creating more parent engagement. Parents get to take the lab for a spin during STEM-a-palooza nights at the school, even building their own rockets and matchbox cars. “We’ve had more parents in our building with those nights than we’ve ever had,” Pasiewicz said. “It’s just incredible.” 

She said the cultural and educational impacts Cherrelyn’s SmartLab have made on the school are well worth the investment. “There’s no sitting on the fence,” Pasiewicz said. “You have to do this for kids”

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