Not your father’s classroom, take a tour of the new learning environment.

Not your father’s classroom, take a tour of the new learning environment.

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.

I’d love to have an hour to work or play in the garage-like Tinker Lab.

I’d love to have an hour to work or play in the garage-like Tinker Lab.

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.

If it was good enough for Apple and Hewlett Packard, it’s good enough for the students of Germantown Academy.

If it was good enough for Apple and Hewlett Packard, it’s good enough for the students of Germantown Academy.

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.

Kindergarteners get a crack at making projects.

Kindergarteners get a crack at making projects.

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.

Students can work in teams or pursue individual projects.

Students can work in teams or pursue individual projects.

Students work on their iPads to create fact-based videos about planets.

Students work on their iPads to create fact-based videos about planets.

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.

On the look out for the next big adventure.

On the look out for the next big adventure.

The renovation of Germantown Academy includes light filled corridors that connect classrooms and inspire joy.

The renovation of Germantown Academy includes light filled corridors that connect classrooms and inspire joy.

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