Altona’s IDEALab Makes Final for Education Award

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(photo by Macie May/Longmont Observer)

Colorado Succeeds is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that works with business leaders and public education systems across the state to champion innovative ideas and opportunities for students to be agile learners.

The organization co-sponsors a “Succeeds Prize” contest with several categories for innovation in education. Altona Middle School, located on the West side of Longmont near Airport Road, was a 2019 finalist in the category of Transformational Impact in Middle School. Although Altona was not selected as the winner after competing with 50 other programs across the state, we wanted to know more about IDEALab that made it a finalist. We asked Jeremy LaCrosse, Altona’s Principal about the program and how it works.

1. What has been the reaction by students, parents, teachers about the Transformational Award?

The staff that attended the Succeeds Prize had a blast at the event and it was wonderful to be valued as educators. The Altona Middle School community appreciates the support and recognition from the Colorado Succeeds Prize, Mind Spark Learning and Channel 9 News or being forward-thinking and empowering students.  We will be working with our students to see how we can spend the $5,000 prize to help further innovation and academic excellence in our school.

2. What was the genesis for the IDEALab, was it from a particular teacher or parent? 

In 2016, after Altona students won the national Verizon App Challenge through their computer science class, teachers and students were looking for how we could continue to provide innovation and design-thinking opportunities for students. Ms. Campbell, who was a science teacher at Altona at the time, pitched the idea to create the IDEALab and now she spends her days working with students to make their ideas come to life. 

3. Which IDEALab activities do the students seem to like the most?

The IDEALab stands for Innovation through Design Innovation, Experimentation & Authentic Learning. The Makerspace is filled with advanced technology tools including a 3D printer, laser engraver, Spheros, 3D pens, sewing machines, wood burning tools, and programming and coding software which is focused on developing authentic, relevant and complex learning across all content areas. Students are empowered to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways and consistently work through the Design Thinking Process by empathizing, prototyping, reflecting, and redesigning to solve problems to create innovative solutions. Each year a different grade level participates in a philanthropic unit that empowers students to be leaders. Two years ago, the 7th grade students held an evening Gala designed to support the Malala Fund after reading the book I Am Malala. Students created projects centered around the message that every student deserves an education. The projects were then showcased at our evening Malala Gala where we raised over $5,000 for the Malala Fund. Students gave LEAD talks, performed musical numbers, held poetry jams and showcased a variety of projects including 3D designs, Virtual Reality, pillowcase dresses for orphans as well as a variety of arts and crafts.

4. Can you explain more how IDEALab activities are integrated with core program content?

Much of the success of the IDEALab is due to the fact that it utilizes a co-teaching model. Our IDEALab Coordinator, Jessica Campbell, partners with all core classes as well as Art, FCS (Family and Consumer Science), Technology and Computer Science classes to create authentic learning experiences that pair core content with technology and the Design Thinking process.  

5. Provide some examples of projects that students have completed in the IDEALab.

  • 7th grade Science students designed video games in Agent Cubes to show their understanding of Plate Tectonics
  • 6th grade FCS students learned about circuitry to create illuminating masks with conductive thread
  • 8th grade math students examined scale and proportions by designing objects in TinkerCad that were printed on our 3D printer 
  • Algebra students used Sphero robots to apply linear functions to discover Planet Algebra
  • 8th Grade language arts students create prototypes and develop a business model for their Shark Tank project
  • 6th grade Science students designed and created upcycled mementos and virtual reality programs to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy and the Ocean Conservancy

6. Which businesses have worked with students in the IDEALab?

The IDEALab has partnered with many industry and nonprofit partners,   including SparkFun, the Malala Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Ocean Conservancy, Eco Cycle, and A Woman’s Work.

7. Anything else you would like to add or highlight about IDEALab?

In St. Vrain Valley Schools, we are preparing students for future success by giving them opportunities to be the innovators, problem solvers, and dreamers who will champion a better world for all.

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