In his blog on learning spaces, Lucien Vattel addresses the spaces in which our students are learning. “We as a society have agreed by doctrine that our children will come together in a building and learn, and yet we allow our kids to be behind desks for a majority of their developing years…. Students don’t need places to sit, listen and write. Instead they need places to connect, explore, discover and relate.”
Creating space in which students can “connect, explore, discover and relate” is exactly what DuPage Children’s Museum strives to bring into preschool and elementary classrooms with their education outreach Learning Labs. Able to be set up within the confines of the classroom setting, these mobile learning opportunities offer just what Mr. Vattel is talking about.
The Learning Lab facilitators, called Lab R.A.T.S. (for Radical Approach to the Subject), set up an environment full of creative, engaging, hands-on learning experiences. After a brief interactive introduction to the subject matter, students then have time for activity participation, exploration, and discovery. These award-winning math and science programs have students engaging in activities that are the experiential learning opportunities that lead to better knowledge retention.
In one of the most popular Learning Labs, one that focuses on the simple machines, students will pull themselves up in a pulley swing, lift their teacher with a lever, and bowl with an inclined plane. The Kids Design Engineering Learning Lab takes students through the entire design/build/test procedure that engineers and inventors would follow in solving a problem or creating a product. Math Learning Labs, such as those based on geometry, estimation practice, or patterns, will find students estimating distance with clown shoes, making patterns out of a pile of socks, and creating a 3-D scene in an open-sided box.
Keeping the challenges and activities relevant by using everyday examples and materials is important to these programs. Using familiar objects and materials allows students the freedom to explore and ask questions in a non-threatening atmosphere. Students are also exposed to both male and female facilitators, who serve as role models for both boys and girls for future STEM careers.
DuPage Children’s Museum has 11 different math and science Learning Labs that cover a variety of physical science and mathematics topics. Visit our website at for more information.