We have had many visits from high school students at the REAP Felt Lab and it is always refreshing to see the lab through their eyes of wonder. Recently, a group of grade 9 students from St. John-Kilmarnock came for a tour and Thinkering workshop. Their teacher, Mrs. Carey Gallagher, provided us with these reflections on her experience at the lab:
“Imagine a place where your mind opens wider than any walls around you”. From Imagine A Place by Sarah L. Thomson and Robert Gonsalves.
After visiting with a group of Grade 9 Exploring Technologies students this past October, it would not surprise me to learn that Ms Thomson and Mr. Gonsalves were standing in the Felt Lab in St. Jacob’s, Ontario at the time that they conjured these words for their book.
When you first walk into the ultra modern lounge that welcomes visitors to the Felt Lab, you are immediately overcome by the futuristic approach to the classic lobby that has been designed to foreshadow what is beyond the waiting room. Indirect lighting, sharp colour palettes, and lush furniture strategically placed to allow for both focusing on a multimedia screen and fostering collaboration work together to give one the impression that you could be working from home, a nightclub, or an office interchangeably.
This cozy collision of worlds still did not prepare me for the sense of wonderment and awe upon entering the room beyond. Struck by the magnitude of what I was seeing, it was only after I realized that the staff of the Felt Lab would be walking us through each cutting-edge technological marvel did the feeling of being overwhelmed start to dissipate. Computer screens the size of pieces of paper that could operate as a single entity or cloak an entire building in unity, devices that allowed for three-dimension movement and projection within what is typically a two-dimensional world, and equipment developed to anticipate and interact with humanity – this was the stuff I had read about in science fiction books, but never imagined that I would actually be able to use!
After experiencing all of the technology in the room, the Grade 9 students were then asked to participate in a ‘thinkering session” whereby they were tasked with developing realistic applications for each different type of technology they saw. Mimicking the early stages of the Design Cycle, students engaged in the process of critical and creative thinking simultaneously. The results, process and product, where far greater than ever could be accomplished in any school setting!
Yet, as a teacher I was left wanting more. Yes, my gadget-driven husband and son would clearly be taking advantage of the Felt Lab’s open-to-the-public events, but as a teacher I was riveted by possibility. While the Felt Lab was clearly the perfect venue for an Exploring Technologies course, it became very clear that its applications could span into all disciplines – marketing campaigns, ethics, politics, funding strategies. The Felt Lab in St. Jacob’s is not only a place to experience ideas, it is a place to grow them and this is the epitome of all that we try to achieve through education.
So, whether you go as an individual to catch a glimpse of what our future holds or you truly want to open the minds of your students wider than any walls around them, a visit to the Felt Lab is well worth your time.