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Woodstock Union High School Middle School opens new Innovation Lab

WOODSTOCK—Innovation is in the air at Woodstock Union High School/Middle School (WUHSMS) with the completion of the new 2,000-square foot state-of-the-art Innovation Lab, a modern natural light-filled space, which officially opened this month within a former woodshop/classroom at the school.

While the school operated a temporary Innovation Lab all year, the newly completed space is much larger and includes three distinct areas: production space, a media space for recording and remote conferencing, and a teaming/presentation area. The production space includes 3-D printers, a laser-cutter, various hand tools, and electronic components.

Last week, some educators from around the region participating in an Innovation in Learning Conference hosted by the Windsor Central Supervisory Union at the Woodstock Inn, got to check out the new lab as an offsite portion of their course.

Students have gotten busy in the space ,with some seventh graders creating kinetic creatures and others working on stop-animation films to show possible effects of climate change in Vermont by 2030.

Seventh grader Oliver Szott and his partner created a kinetic armadillo using cardboard, a laser cutter, specialized software, and a motor. “We realized cardboard does not really bend but we figured out a way to represent movement,” he said, adding that he enjoyed “the freedom to create a project in a way that worked for us.”

Eighth grade students designed historical markers to commemorate specific events that happened in North America during the 1600s and 1700s using an online design program to incorporate art and words onto the markers, which they then laser-cut for a Vermont History Day exhibit.

“I like having the tools that the Innovation Studio provides, as well as the expertise available to me and my students. I think students are inspired by having opportunities to produce ‘real world’ products,” said eighth grade English/social studies teacher Beth Hayslett.

Innovation Design Engineering and Action (IDEA) students in the high school, who designed for empathy in the fall by creating devices that simulated some disabilities such as ALS and a concussion, are now using the videoconferencing room in the lab to meet with people regarding their new project, partnering with clients from Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport. Their goal is to create or improve devices to help their clients enjoy skiing and other outdoor sports.

WUHSMS is the first public high school in the country to partner with NuVu, a full-time innovation school for middle and high school students in Cambridge, Mass., that follows the architectural studio model. The partnership included help designing the new lab and NuVu Design and Technology Fellow Dustin Brugmann, who is managing the lab space and co-teaching with WUHSMS instructors for the year.

Principal Garon Smail notes that entering the new Innovation Lab feels completely different from the rest of the school because of the distinct light-filled spaces with high ceilings, unique equipment, and the emphasis on teamwork. “We want kids to feel they can do things and make things happen,” he said.

“We are really pleased with how the lab came out and how students are responding. The combination of lots of natural light, flexible furniture/flexible spaces helps to create an uplifting environment that facilitates collaboration and creative thinking,” said Jason Drebitko, a committee member who helped organize the project and raise private funds to bring both the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Lab to Woodstock Elementary and the Innovation Lab to WUHSMS emphasizes.

Many students will have the opportunity to create a project in the lab as different teachers partner with Brugmann and students come to the space to work on individual projects as well.

“This is my new favorite place,” said Freshman Hailey Berrio of the lab. Her computer science class adapted design code to make snowflakes with the laser cutter and she was recently in the lab working on a personal project – a laser-cut zebra for her grandmother.

“The lab isn’t a separate class. The lab is a place where any student who has a strength in any subject area can make solutions come to life,” Curriculum Coordinator Jennifer Stainton emphasized.”

Photos Submitted
Seventh grade students work on kinetic creatures in the new Innovation Lab.

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