Lamplighter Opens STEM-based Innovation Lab

Programs in the Innovation Lab will emphasize project-based learning. (Photo: Imani Chet Lytle)

The Lamplighter School on Inwood Road has opened its Innovation Lab, a building addition which brings state-of-the-art enhancements that will contribute to the school’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.

The independent, co-educational day school serves students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

“What I find really exciting is that Lamplighter offers [STEM] programming to children at 3 or 4 years old,” said Judith Mullens, Lamplighter’s director of early childhood.

Most of the programs in the addition employ some degree of project-based learning, a teaching philosophy favoring exploration of challenges and some degree of productive labor by the students, over primarily teacher-led instruction. Programs include coding, engineering, and woodworking.

In the science room, third- and fourth-graders are building robots that can run along a rope; they have also started a vertical hydroponic vegetable garden, which they monitor and harvest themselves.

In another room, children are tasked with solving “real-world problems,” like building a house capable of withstanding a storm. In an adjacent kitchen, 4-year-olds get lessons in home economics.

“If you think about cooking, it really lends itself to mathematics, design … and making projects,” said Vicki Raney, assistant head for academics.

(Photo: Imani Chet Lytle)

Students also have an allotted time in the woodworking room, where they build things and are taught how to use tools.

There also is the environmental and early childhood sciences classroom, where ecology and wilderness conservation are taught.

“It’s stewardship of the earth,” said Joan Hill, head of school, “and really teaching that at a very young age is what we hope will build a lifetime of kids who care about our world.”

The planning for the Innovation Lab began nearly two years ago. The building was designed by Marlon Blackwell, a well-regarded architect and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas.

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