Scholars at four Uplift Education campuses will get to hone their problem-solving skills next year in new Maker Space Innovation labs made possible by a special collaboration with the Leadership Dallas Class of 2014, a civic awareness program run by the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Each member of this year’s Leadership Dallas class donated to the project and through additional donations by local companies, the group contributed more than $120,000 to fund the labs.
Loren Koziol served as the project chair for Leadership Dallas. The Leadership Dallas class reviewed many proposals for how their fundraising efforts could be directed. The proposal submitted for Maker Space labs by Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia caught the attention of the class because of the focus on hands-on learning and the opportunity to positively impact the learning process for Dallas children in public schools. Once the team discussed the labs with Ms. Bhatia, the project quickly transformed from a simple fundraising initiative in October 2013 to a fully developed educational initiative that will be introduced at four Uplift high schools in the fall.
“Yasmin encouraged us to think beyond the equipment. Labs are great, but how they are used is even more important. We connected with the Perot Museum education team to establish a great curricular program for the Maker Space labs. It has turned into a great partnership,” Mr. Koziol said.
Maker Space classrooms are open, working labs where students create prototypes and build robots to solve specific real world problems. Students use engineering design tools, such as 3D software, printers and other equipment in a laboratory environment. The Uplift Innovation Labs, as we have named them, are just a small part of a larger Maker Space movement in education to provide students with an in-school opportunity to learn and use necessary 21st century skills.
“These classroom spaces will allow our scholars an opportunity to understand firsthand how science and discovery influence our world while strengthening critical thinking skills. As a public charter school network, Uplift receives approximately 20% less funding per student from the state, and no funding for facilities. The Leadership Dallas Class project has allowed us to create spaces where our scholars can explore, innovate, and apply learning just as a scientist or engineer might do in a real laboratory,” Ms. Bhatia said.
Mr. Koziol was easily convinced that the labs could make a real difference in the Uplift science program.
“This project revolutionizes the way children learn. It brings critical thinking to the classroom. Science needs to be hands on. We are able to put something in scholars’ hands that can quickly produce tangible thoughts. We are really excited about what Uplift teachers will be able to accomplish in the new spaces,” he said.
Robert Agnich, representing the Agnich Family Foundation, was also impressed with the project and made a lead gift to the program on the behalf of the Foundation. The Agnich Family Foundation is focused on finding ways to be involved in science education. According to Mr. Agnich, the Maker Space lab project is perfectly aligned with the Foundation’s priorities.
A 1994 graduate of Greenhill School in Addison, Mr. Agnich dedicated the lab at Uplift Peak Preparatory to Kazuko Ito, a foreign exchange student and close friend of his at Greenhill in 1993. She was killed in an American Airline plane crash in Columbia in 1995.
“Kazuko loved science. She would have loved to get in here to play around with the lab. She would have dug the idea of kids solving adult problems, which is the point of the lab. When I promised her mother that I would find a way for her to be remembered, I had no idea that such a perfect project would come along. It’s worth the twenty-year wait. It’s a special way for her to continue to outlive her life,” Mr. Agnich said.
The labs will be open at Uplift Peak Preparatory in East Dallas, Uplift Luna Preparatory in Deep Ellum, Uplift Hampton Preparatory in southwest Dallas and Uplift Williams Preparatory in northwest Dallas when the 2014-15 school year starts on August 5.