The Making of Legacy's State-of-the-Art Innovation Lab
February, 2017 - Issue #148
The following is an excerpt of a recent interview featuring Legacy Christian Academy's
Principal Dr. Matthew Northrop, Computer Teacher and IT Director Carl Astrera
and Technology Systems Consultant & STEM Elective Teacher Jerry Johnson.

What was the primary intention of Legacy's brand-new Innovation Lab?
Dr. Northrop:
We wanted to create an innovative space where kids could be inspired; it needed to have flexible floor space where they could interact with technology and, just as important, each other.

Astrera: There was great thought given to the functionality of the space. There's so much workspace here; we don't have to clear off traditional desks to work on multi-platform projects.

Johnson: Exactly. And when developing the design, we had to look into the future. Who would have thought, even a few years ago, that we'd be interacting with technology the way we do now? This space reflects a great deal of forward thinking with four 4K screens on the wall, an 84-inch "touch" flatscreen monitor and so much more.

There's so much to marvel at in the Innovation Lab; what do you consider the primary elements?
Dr. Northrop:
To start, the tables that were completely custom designed. We looked everywhere for exactly what we needed and it didn't exist.

Johnson: So we built it! Educational furniture is very 'old school,' made of pressboard and lacking real functional flexibility. We didn't have the space to have 15 different surfaces for each function. We needed high utility. We went with a clear surface to match instructional needs. The tables can rise so students can stand and sit and they have memory functions to accommodate different grade levels. The computers are attached so we don't have to move them around and the cables are out of the way. We had to think way out of the box to come up with every different scenario we might want to use this space for academically.

One of the things we teach Legacy students is to solve problems through innovation. One of the nice things about these components is that we're teaching them that if they can't find what they need in a catalog, they can build it. It's the American way.

Dr. Northrop: That's what we want for our kids - for them to not only have a firm knowledge of what exists and what has happened before - how you build a computer, how you develop a wi-fi system - but those things that don't exist. How do we solve those problems that the next generation will come across? Those are the kinds of conversations Legacy's Innovation Lab enables.

I can't help but feel like I'm in an Apple store in here!
Dr. Northrop: It does feel like a Mac store! Glass walls. New flooring. LED lights. Lots of white. We spent a lot of time on the ambiance because space matters; where you are at and how you feel in that space defines what you accomplish there.

Johnson: All of those elements are highly functional as well. The white walls are clean and aesthetic but they also function as dry-erase boards. We can draw where we need to draw. We can have multiple teams working in different spaces and now we have room to put gear away and bring out elements for the next projects. It doesn't matter if we're talking engineering, robotics, programming, computers - there's a place for all of it.

Why do this?
Dr. Northrop:
We don't want technology to sit and collect dust; we want technology to be interactive for the kids and be used as a tool to prepare our students to be leaders and learners.

Astrera: Legacy students learn everything about technology beginning in Kindergarten. When they're really little, it's about how to right click, how to open and save, how to print, how to make capital letters, how to do word processing. Older kids do spreadsheets, learn how to make websites, how to set up a wireless network, how to do coding, how to make presentations, how to build a computer. In middle school we focus on media, resume writing, using the Google App suite. We always incorporate lessons from their classroom. For example, in second grade they're learning about pollution; in Computers, they use their knowledge to research and make their first slideshow.

Johnson: One of our nation's educational crises is the lack of technology, engineering and STEM subjects. The Legacy curriculum was expanded to not just get them through the California system, but to ensure that they leave here prepared to earn a quality career and have an impact on their community. Robotics and technology are the future and to have kids start learning that this young is way outside "normal" curriculum standards. It's the new "shop class," where algebra, physics and geometry become so obviously useful and much more understood - and they're doing it in teams, just like the real world. Legacy's new Innovation Lab has made all of this possible.
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