The library tower of San Marino’s Carver Elementary School is an impressive bastion in a school district once again named number one in the state, but it’s the transformation happening inside that foreshadows the successful futures of San Marino’s youngest students.
Renovations are underway in the library to gear Carver students for the future with a space centered on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, learning.
Soon, they’ll be creating, competing and experiencing hands-on activities in the flexible Makerspace that includes a Lego wall and table, robot kits, a SMART Board and whiteboard in addition to 12,000 new books in shelves, on wheels—and that’s key, because this space will soon be home to STEM, robotics and “First Lego League” competitions.
“This is the center of Carver, and it’s really become our learning hub,” Principal Michael Lin said.
It will be the first time the school will be competing in robotics and the First Lego League, an extracurricular afterschool program that asks student teams to investigate real-world problems and respond with innovative solutions. The teams will be coached by Carver parent volunteers and meet afterschool and on weekends. The initiative is supported by the San Marino Unified School District with contributions from League parents.
With bookshelves that fit seamlessly together and glide out of the way, students can be free to work and build within the library space, and outside of it, with STEM learning continuing throughout the campus.
Carver’s science lab has also been transformed into a STEM space, and students were busy inside creating with tape and popsicle sticks during a “free explore” lesson last Friday.
Students in another class worked in groups to design “hurricane towers;” especially relevant given the international destruction within the past month. The teams created structures that could hold a ball, then tested their models.
“Science is no longer science,” Lin said. “It has to be real, relevant and tied to real experiences—it’s so much more meaningful.”
Art is now integrated with engineering, science with language arts–fusions brought on through Next Generation Science Standards and explored through innovative programming at the elementary school.
“Even though [the district is] number one, there’s still room for improvement, we still have to experiment, take risks and try to innovate, we cannot sit still,” Lin said.
Colorful posters on the wall in the STEM lab spelled out a question: What’s in the “mystery box?” along with students’ steps to solve the proposed problem. Principal Lin stressed it’s not about finding the answer, but the steps involved in analyzing and critically thinking to work toward a solution.
And right next door to the library, the computer lab is equipped with a 3D printer for prototype creation and a green screen, “so kids can explore and be anywhere, even outer space.”
Recently, 5 and 6-year-old students experimented with line forms in art class and creating 3D printed cup holders as gifts for family. With the help of technicians and teachers, the students were able to fuse the concepts into unique, personalized creations.
Experiences like this are what drive Principal Lin, who said he’s dedicated 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day to planning, communicating and organizing his goals, priorities and programs at the school.
“It’s a labor of love, and I think parents and staff see that,” he said. “I told parents this was an infrastructure building year, but it’s notjust building, it’s that human element of retaining professionals, experts and parents who are excited about seeing our students succeed.”