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Sep 30, 2015 2:55 PM ET

Archived: Falk School WonderLab: Building the WonderLab, a vibrant, multi-disciplinary space where Falk students will learn by making things with their own hands

iCrowdNewswire - Sep 30, 2015

WonderLab: A hub for learning through making

At Falk School, children (and teachers!) are making things all the time. Over the last several years, we have been cultivating a shift in mindset across our school, integrating the tools of technology into learning across all disciplines and levels. For example, in working with a visiting fiber artist, second graders built on their knowledge of electrical circuits by creating a quilted piece using conductive thread in a representation of how light is used in family celebrations. 

We strive for our children to be not just consumers of technology but creators with (and of!) technology, and, in our role as a laboratory school, to produce documentation and curriculum that can support others on the same path. From “fantasy machines” made of foam and wire in Kindergarten to giant roller coasters in middle school, we build and construct things to explore and deepen learning. Now we’re ready for a dedicated space to take our making to the next level–the WonderLab!

The kind of building and exploring we value quickly extends beyond the classroom.  Our children often find themselves building in the hall, in study spaces, and other nooks and corners of our building that just weren’t designed with making in mind. The WonderLab will provide an exciting, vibrant hub for our learning and making students, well-equipped with the technology and the tools to make Making happen!

5th grade Hummingbird exploration in the current computer lab
5th grade Hummingbird exploration in the current computer lab

Our initial funding goal: WonderLab BASIC ($12,000)

Our initial funding milestone of $12,000 will support basic renovation of the existing computer lab, converting it into an open space with hard floors and easily movable work surfaces.   In addition to being a flexible space for activities like craft-oriented robotics and simple machines construction, WonderLab BASIC will be a hub for woodworking and 3D printing.  

Because of the nature of these materials, as well as the challenge of electrical and network wiring in a flexible workspace, WonderLab BASIC will not house a traditional computer lab.  Our extensive computer science curriculum will be implemented through mobile devices and cross-curricular collaborations if we stop at WonderLab BASIC.  Which is why we need your help to reach…

Stretch Goal 1: WonderLab PLUS ($17,000)

Hitting our first stretch goal will unlock our first “tools and toys tier” of growth!  Donations toward WonderLab PLUS will begin to support purchase of electronics (a $100 donation buys aHummingbird controller; a $1000 donation buys a class set!) woodworking supplies (a $50 donation buys a whittling set; a $500 donation buys a drill press) and more.  We have specific goals for purchases in this tier, but If you have expertise in an area of making and desire to see a certain type of tool in the WonderLab, we would love to hear from you.

WonderLab PLUS will offer students many experiences not possible in WonderLab BASIC.  But we still don’t have a dedicated digital studio, which is why we need your help to reach…

Stretch Goal 2: WonderLab EXPANDED ($25,000)

Reaching our second stretch goal of $25,000 will allow us to expand the WonderLab to include both digital and hands-on studio spaces.  By reorganizing room use within our School, we will be able to build a small computer lab adjoining the makerspace: WonderLab EXPANDED!  There will be sliding doors between the two, supporting explorations that connect across the spaces but allowing us to use two separate rooms when appropriate.  The computer lab will be smaller, which creates an exciting catalyst to rethinking class size and scheduling of computer science and other digital explorations.

Architectural plan for expanded WonderLab
Architectural plan for expanded WonderLab

WonderLab EXPANDED will give us the space that we need to grow into the many hands-on investigations that we envision taking place in the space.  But it doesn’t yet contain the all of tools that we need for it to be a full-fledged makerspace.  Which is why we need your help to reach…

Stretch Goal 3: WonderLab STOCKED ($35,000)

Hitting our third stretch goal will unlock our second “tools and toys tier” of growth!   Donations toward WonderLab STOCKED will go toward building mobile themed maker carts that can be used in the lab or taken to other spaces in the school. For example, the electronics cart might contain basic components like wire, LEDs, batteries, conductive materials, tools to strip and solder, and related safety equipment. Donations at this point will also support professional development so that teachers across the levels and disciplines are comfortable with using the makerspace and building making into their own curriculum (a $500 donation provides an in-house workshop for teachers!)  We will have some flexibility in purchases within this tier, and are eager to hear from donors that wish to see something specific become part of the WonderLab.  

One of our dreams is for the WonderLab to become a space where we can hold events for families, such as open studios to explore together the materials, tools, and ideas that children have been working with at school.  WonderLab STOCKED will be that space!

Stretch goal 4: WonderLab ULTIMATE ($50,000)

Reaching this level seems almost too good to be true, but we do have a vision for WonderLab ULTIMATE – a space not only for educating our children in a state-of-the-art facility, but also to showcase Falk’s role as a leader in the making in education movement.  

WonderLab ULTIMATE becomes a resource for student teachers, groups of teachers from other schools, and even community groups who want to learn about making.  While our students are always, always our first priority, there are times of the week and year when the WonderLab could be open for outside groups to learn from Falk’s experience — and for Falk educators and children to grow through the connection with others.  Stay tuned for more on WonderLab ULTIMATE as this level gets closer to being unlocked!

About our School

Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School is a Progressive K-8 school affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education. We support and conduct academic research into teaching and learning and train and mentor dozens of student teachers each year.

Why we need you!

Our new makerspace will be well-used by all classrooms in grades K-8, making it a significant learning experience for all Falk children.

We are privileged to be part of the University of Pittsburgh, and receive support from the University in some important ways. Still, we are independently responsible for funding, through tuition, philanthropic gifts, and grants, almost all of our educational/programmatic operations–all of which is why we need your help to build our WonderLab!


We are delighted to be one of the small group of schools selected to partner with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in the design and building of this space. In addition to providing us with guidance in our planning, and a network of schools with similar visions, our partnership with the Museum opens many possibilities for professional development, so that any teacher at the school, regardless of prior experience, can feel comfortable working in the WonderLab.

Next Steps

If funded, we will immediately start completing the design with the Children’s Museum and begin outfitting the space with any tools and equipment that can be used in the current space.  Any construction will take place over the summer, and as soon as a working space is available, we will begin to build out carts and work surfaces using the WonderLab space and tools.  We will also schedule numerous professional development sessions throughout the coming eighteen months.

Tax deductibility

Gifts to Falk Laboratory School are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.  Falk will be sending out tax letters to donors if we reach our initial goal

Contact Information:

Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School

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