Shared from the 1/22/2018 Greenwich Time eEdition


Innovation Lab to expand

Hands-on learning program opens to ninth graders this fall

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Junior Ben Wolff cuts a PVC pipe for a project as Sophie Anderlind watches during an Innovation Lab class at Greenwich High School on Sept. 28.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Math teacher Lauren Moskovitz helps sophomore James Mair during an Innovation Lab class at Greenwich High School on Sept. 28. The STEM-focused Innovation Lab has expanded for the 2017 school year by adding a grade, creating a new classroom and adding several new teachers.

GREENWICH — Innovation Lab at Greenwich High School will expand in the fall, opening its doors to ninth grade students for the first time.

“Now in our third year with the program, we have seen the benefits of the InLab approach on students of all levels of academic preparedness,” said Chris Winters, Greenwich High headmaster. “It offers students a small, collaborative and interdisciplinary alternative to the excellent courses taught at GHS.”

Ninth-grade students enrolling in Innovation Lab next school year will take humanities, a joint English and history course, and a design studio elective in the program. They will take traditional science and math classes with the rest of Greenwich High, unlike Innovation Lab sophomores, juniors and seniors, who also take a combined science and math class, or STEM, within the program.

Applications to Innovation Lab from current eighth-graders are being accepted now. Admission is rolling and will close at the end of February. The program anticipates accepting about 35 students.

“Eighth-grade counselors predict there will be a high demand for this,” said Christina Shaw, Innovation Lab program associate and teacher.

Innovation Lab teachers and Greenwich High administrators began assessing demand for an Innovation Lab ninth grade and researching best practices this year, Shaw said.

Innovation Lab teachers noticed across Greenwich Public Schools interest in project-based and hands-on learning is spiking.

“The InLab concept is truly a prototype of tomorrow's classroom and school design,” said Superintendent of Schools Jill Gildea. “We are fortunate that our GPS educators are leading the way in this innovative approach to teaching and learning.”

Many elementary and middle schools have “Innovation Spaces” where students can use power tools, manipulatives or robots to create and explore. Leaving ninth graders without an “Innovation” option seemed to create a gap, Shaw said.

“With all of our schools having interest in this area, it seems like a logical progression to add a ninth grade in the program,” she said.

Innovation Lab teachers are designing the curriculum for the new ninth grade humanities course. They plan to roll out a STEM course for ninth graders in the 2019-20 school year.

“We feel we need more time to roll out the STEM component of ninth grade,” said Shaw. “I believe that slow and steady is the way to go on this.”

The addition of ninth grade will grow Innovation Lab from about 80 sophomores, juniors and seniors this year to over 100 students next year. Since the program launched in 2015, the program has grown by adding one grade level each year.

“Most students who enter InLab, remain in InLab and are very pleased with the program,” Winters said. “We expect the same for the new ninth-grade humanities class.”

Innovation Lab may need more classroom space next year, but its current 11 teachers should be sufficient, Shaw said.

“For the most part, the curriculum for the sophomore, junior and senior year will not change as a result of another grade,” Shaw said.

The program will also offer a new course next year: Innovation Lab-style geometry, open to any Greenwich High School students. This course will allow students to sample InLab’s project-based learning style without fully enrolling or provide an additional math class for InLab students, Shaw said.

The nonprofit Greenwich Alliance for Education has funded over $375,000 in grants to Innovation Lab over the past four years, including $50,000 this year to support the expansion to ninth grade.

“The Greenwich Alliance for Education is so pleased with the very systemic and thoughtful expansion of In Lab to the ninth grade made in possible in part through our grant funding,” said Julie Faryniarz, executive director of the Greenwich Alliance for Education. “The teachers have put a considerable amount of time in developing a curriculum and flexible structure that works exceptionally well for the tenth through twelfth grade students. This careful planning definitely makes them ready to bring in the ninth graders.

The Board of Education will vote this spring on whether to accept the Innovation Lab, which has operated as a pilot since 2015, as a permanent program.

“We update the BOE annually and look forward to when the BOE votes to make the pilot program permanent,” Winters said.; Twitter: @emiliemunson

“With all of our schools having interest in this area, it seems like a logical progression to add a ninth grade in the program.”
Christina Shaw, Innovation Lab program associate, teacher

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