When you think of the word hub, what comes to mind? You may imagine a bicycle wheel or the center of a bustling city — but the newest space at the St. Paul’s Lower School is all of that and more!
Imagine a central location, where students come to learn collaboratively through real-world applications and hands-on design thinking challenges. A place where they can make connections with their peers, faculty, and the surrounding community while receiving differentiated, individualized instruction.
Welcome to St. Paul’s newest classroom: The Hub – Immersive Science and Innovation Lab.
The Hub was the brainchild of Nancy Dimitriades and Kristie Burkett, two long-time St. Paul’s Lower School teachers. Building on their combined experience as educators, Nancy and Kristie created a collaborative space where students attend class, meet in clubs, and participate in project-based learning opportunities.
Nancy and Kristie work with students daily from the preschool through 4th grade in projects such as creating model cars that run without fuel, designing rafts to carry objects without sinking, and building strong structures. But their work doesn’t end with students; they are consistently working with their colleagues to enhance instruction in all subject areas. They work with teachers to make cross-curricular connections. They help them seamlessly integrate the school’s Community Garden, Science, Engineering and Design, and Technology throughout the curriculum. The Hub is designed to be a planning space that enables students to communicate, research, build, test, and produce each day.
The Hub is different than a traditional STEM lab or Makerspace because of the connections it encourages throughout the school and community. Middle school teachers work with Lower School students in the after-school program and on special projects throughout the year. Older students work in the outdoor garden space projects with younger siblings. Students meet with professionals in STEM careers from the surrounding community during their Science and Engineering Evening. Students work on various community service projects in the Community Garden. You know what’s really (cool)? Nancy and Kristie have the chance to work with students from the time they are in preschool until the day they graduate from Upper School.
“We get to watch students’ growth and development,” said Kristie. “We get to stay a part of their lives longer than a homeroom teacher and we can watch their personal development. When Nancy and I plan our lessons, we can think of particular students and say, ‘So and so is going to LOVE this!’ We can’t wait for them to get here!”
In addition to collaborative problem solving, The Hub offers space for enrichment projects during the school’s WIN (What I Need) time each week. During this time, students can meet with reading or math specialists, join teachers in classroom projects, or spend time engaging in enrichment projects in the Hub. Dr. Bryan Powell, Head of St. Paul’s Lower School, worked with teachers to create this time for students to address individual learning goals.
“In an environment like ours, we know each child. We know the books that they like and the sports that they play. Many teachers go to see their games. It’s just that sort of place. Administrators know the kids just as well,” said Dr. Powell, who not only leads the Lower School, he reads with the Kindergarten and Pre-First grade students each week and teaches a 4th grade math class. He prides himself on engagement and extending the ways children think — not only with his staff and families in the communities, but also with his students.
The collaborative spirit among the staff and students at St. Paul’s is evident. The Hub, being at the heart of the Lower School, is the product of years of development and hard work to individualize curriculum, meet a growing trend of diverse needs, and encourage students to be collaborative 21st century problem solvers.
“I have a faculty of people who are passionate about working with kids, and have great ideas. Put those two things together, and this is what happens,” said Dr. Powell.
This article is part of our school partner profile series. To learn more about St. Paul’s School, visit their profile in our independent school directory. Or better yet, join them for Kindness Carnival on October 13th! Photos provided by St. Paul’s School.