With greater emphasis being placed on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), particularly in elementary and middle school curricula, greater attention is being paid to enhancing the concept of the “open classroom” that originally came into vogue in the mid-20th century with designs, equipment and professional resources necessary to prepare even the youngest students to tackle the ever-evolving challenges of the 21st.
In April of 2019, 1100 Architect, a New York based architecture firm, reached out to me to photograph an addition they made to Germantown Academy, a private school in the Philadelphia suburbs. With school still in session, this was a particularly opportune time to take pictures of the new science spaces with actual students in class and engaged in their projects.
One of the spaces is a garage-like maker space named the Tinker Lab. Here students from grades K to 5 can literally tinker around and create all kinds of things—an important opportunity to gain real hands-on experience through trial and error in an age when almost everything seems to lean toward digital.
Photographing such spaces with students on site and “in action” does have its challenges. For me, it was a matter of waiting for and seizing on those decisive moments when they were interacting with each other and their creations.
One such student announced, “I’m going to make a trailer for my planet video!” As proficient with an iPad as generations of the past were with pencil and paper, these young minds are encouraged to think open-endedly, to say, instead of “what,” “what if?”
What if, indeed.