The mo­bile lab of­fers ac­tiv­i­ties and les­sons in the STEAM ar­eas

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gin­ger Rae Dun­bar gdun­[email protected]­tu­ry­ @GingerDun­bar on Twit­ter

UWCHLAN >> Down­ing­town el­e­men­tary stu­dents will be learn­ing about STEAM path­ways in style in the In­no­va­tion Lab, or to some it may seem more like a magic school bus.

The In­no­va­tion Lab is in­side a school bus that is trav­el­ing to the 10 Down­ing­town Area School Dis­trict el­e­men­tary schools and of­fer­ing hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties and les­sons in the STEAM ar­eas (Science, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing, Art and Math). Krapf Bus do­nated a nearly new hand­i­cap ac­ces­si­ble bus for this project. The In­no­va­tion Lab is the re­sult of a fundrais­ing drive by the Down­ing­town Com­mu­nity Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion (DCEF), cre­ated in part­ner­ship with the Down­ing­town Area School Dis­trict.

DCEF Pres­i­dent Doug El­der said that the or­ga­ni­za­tion helped the dis­trict by work­ing to­gether and seek­ing in­put from teach­ers through a grant pro­gram to ob­tain new ap­proaches to learn­ing and in­te­grated into the cur­ricu­lum pro­gram. When the dis­trict ini­ti­ated the in­no­va­tion time in the el­e­men­tary schools, it was de­ter­mined that seven of the 10 el­e­men­tary schools did not have enough phys­i­cal space ded­i­cated to pro­vide the in­no­va­tion pro­gram.

“The foun­da­tion took this op­por­tu­nity and found a solu-

tion: the Mo­bile In­no­va­tion Lab. Isn’t it beau­ti­ful?” El­der asked the crowd dur­ing a cer­e­mony held at Lionville El­e­men­tary School. “The school board ad­min­is­tra­tion part­nered with us every step of the way to en­sure the In­no­va­tion Lab would not only meet the stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tional needs, but also be adapt­able for ed­u­ca­tion to­mor­row.”

East Ward El­e­men­tary third grade teacher Brit­tany Sch­wab is teach­ing stu­dents dur­ing a 45-minute block. She is thank­ful she was se­lected by ad­min­is­tra­tors to lead the stu­dents in the in­no­va­tion bus, a dream come true for her, she said. She got her com­mer­cial driver’s li­cense (CDL) over the sum­mer to be able to drive the bus to the dif­fer­ent schools.

“It’s sort of sur­real. I feel like Ms. Friz­zle,” Sch­wab said with a smile about the teacher on the 1990s TV show called The Magic School Bus. “The kids are learn­ing by us­ing hand­son tools. You feed off of be­ing with the kids all day long. The kids don’t want to leave. It’s been awe­some.”

She teaches kinder­garten through fifth-grade stu­dents, adding that she brings the skills to their level. The stu­dents will learn about the STEM path­ways, com­puter cod­ing, ro­bot­ics and more.

“It’s amaz­ing what the kids can do,” Sch­wab said. “Any kid has the abil­ity to learn those skills.”

Deb­o­rah Phelps, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion of Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic Schools, praised Down­ing­town Su­per­in­ten­dent Em­i­lie Lonardi for un­der­stand­ing the need for in­no­va­tion class­rooms and sup­ports such learn­ing. Lonardi thanked Matthew Fried­man, Chief Aca­demic Of­fi­cer at Down­ing­town, and Jackie Fenn, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the foun­da­tion, for col­lab­o­rat­ing on the in­no­va­tion lab. She also thanked the school board mem­bers for sup­port­ing the project. She said they wanted to pro­vide 21st Cen­tury learn­ing in a cost-ef­fec­tive way.

“We have it all in Down­ing­town,” Lonardi said.

This project be­gan in the sum­mer of 2017 and the nearly $350,000 project was ready in 14 months with fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions from busi­nesses, com­mu­nity mem­bers and Down­ing­town fam­i­lies, in ad­di­tion to grant money and bud­geted funds from the dis­trict and foun­da­tion, ac­cord­ing to El­der.

Fried­man worked with foun­da­tion mem­bers from Bal­ti­more to learn about the in­no­va­tion bus, how to use it and to build their own pro­gram spe­cific for their stu­dents. Fenn said the stu­dents are suc­cess­ful be­cause the com­mu­nity and busi­nesses came to­gether to help the stu­dents grow and fo­cus on them.

Kathi Coz­zone, who serves on the foun­da­tion board and is a Ch­ester County Com­mis­sioner, thanked Jackie Fenn and oth­ers for work­ing to­gether to present such a project that al­lows the stu­dents to have fun learn­ing out­side the class­room.

State Sen. An­drew Din­ni­man, D-19, of West White­land, told the stu­dents they will learn on the in­no­va­tion bus about the pros­per­ity of the na­tion and the “key to your fu­ture as well.”

Visit Daily Lo­cal News staff writer Gin­ger Rae Dun­bar’s blog about jour­nal­ism and vol­un­teer­ing as a fire­fighter at Fire­fight­


Down­ing­town Com­mu­nity Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion mem­bers and Down­ing­town Area School Dis­trict of­fi­cials un­veiled the Mo­bile In­no­va­tion Lab that is trav­el­ing to the dis­trict’s 10 el­e­men­tary schools to teach stu­dents about the STEAM path­ways.


Bal­ti­more County of­fi­cials are pic­tured with Down­ing­town of­fi­cials who col­lab­o­rated on the In­no­va­tion Lab to bring one to Down­ing­town.

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