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What We Do With What We Know

Friday, May 31, 2013

When our new middle school campus at 601 Dolores is open and construction has been completed, one of the most exciting spaces the students will inhabit is the Innovation Lab (iLab). Housed on the second floor, the iLab will provide students with opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning and tinkering. In a creative and collaborative workspace, the iLab will model the connections between the interdisciplinary subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM).

It’s never been more clear how important these connections between subjects are and how this style of learning will prepare our children for the future.

I recently came across this article in the Science section of the New York Times and found it quite amazing:

The Power of a 3-D Printer

Doctors at the University of Michigan used a 3-D printer to create a synthetic body part that enabled a child with a rare birth defect to breathe on his own, The New England Journal of Medicine reported. The 20-month-old boy, Kaiba Gionfriddo of Youngstown, Ohio, was born with tracheobronchomalacia, in which the airway walls are so weak that they can collapse just from coughing. Kaiba had suddenly stopped breathing at 3 months and was placed on a ventilator.

With emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, the doctors used a digital image of Kaiba’s airway to produce a tiny tracheal splint made from a biodegradable polymer. Placed inside the throat, the sprint allows the normal trachea to grow and strengthen gradually.

“It takes about two to three years for the trachea to remodel and grow into a healthy state,” said Dr. Scott Hollister, one of two doctors who performed the operation, “and that’s about how long this material will take to dissolve into the body.” The operation took place in February last year; Kaiba is reportedly still doing well.

And in another article Thomas Friedman talks about the shift towards educating innovators:

Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America. Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean. It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.”

Our planned iLab is the perfect place for students to put their knowledge into action, to become makers and explore the ways that these disciplines overlap and inform one another.

I’m also happy to report that CDS is one of eight independent elementary schools in San Francisco that pools resources to bring nationally known speakers to town. Mark your calendars now to hear Tony Wagner (author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, and The Global Achievement Gap) speak on Wednesday, October 16, at 7 p.m., at 601 Dolores.  His website is And you can click here for his Ted talk, Play, Passion, & Purpose, to learn more.

If you want to learn more about our iLab, don’t hesitate to contact me. From lungs made with a 3D printer to a cell phone charger made from a car battery and altoid case, our middle school students are creating real world tools and resources. We couldn’t be prouder!