Lighthouse Creativity Lab Empowers Students

By:  Shoma Chatterjee

Two years ago, H+A facilitated a 5-week design workshop with students, school staff and faculty at Lighthouse Community Charter School in East Oakland to transform an existing classroom into a new makerspace aptly named Creativity Lab.  This week we went back to check on how things were going - and they were going great!

The maker studio includes lots of storage space and shelving for organizing materials and projects, along with mobile STEAM carts to push Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math into every classroom. The classroom was repainted with bright colors and reconfigured to make the space inviting for students, a place where they can ‘mess things up’. As part of the design workshop process, we helped work out the initial syllabus for project-based learning at the school. Creativity Lab is now a hub for project-based learning on the campus. It’s used daily by middle school students and doubles as a curriculum development lab for educators wanting hands-on experience with project-based learning in their classrooms.

We recently revisited Creativity Lab and discovered that it has spurred project-based learning throughout the school. On the day we visited, high school students were busily designing wind turbines in four competing teams, closely supervised by their physics teacher. Middle schoolers have designed new mini maker spaces for the kindergarten classrooms, and fourth graders recently built benches for their classrooms. The school has implemented “20% time” – popularized by Google – to give fourth graders control over how they spend their creative time. Creativity Lab Director Aaron Vanderwerff has been spreading the design-making program school-wide by promoting maker spaces within every classroom, helping teachers easily integrate project-based learning into their regular curriculum. Aaron has also partnered Creativity Lab with Agency by Design, a research group from Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, at the forefront of research on learning by making.

Nestled in an industrial neighborhood near the Oakland Airport, Lighthouse Community Charter School is a free public school serving low-income youth, and Creativity Lab has opened doors for these underprivileged students by exposing them to new opportunities in their lives. H+A is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate and design Creativity Lab for this inspiring school.