Collaboration in ColLabs

Kimberly Formisano, Head of Lower School
What a beautiful spring we've had—perfect weather for field trips, eating outdoors, recess joy, and time in the garden! Spring has also brought colLabs to the upper elementary grades. It has been a privilege to see the students in action and see what is explored through cross-grade level collaboration. Thanks to Ina Patel, Director of Teaching and Learning, who shared her insights with me about the colLab experience.  

The colLab program seeks to promote the science and STEAM learning experience with a slight twist. Students are given the opportunity to learn and work with students and teachers from different grade levels.This inquiry-based approach to STEAM allows students to experience learning in a dynamic and collaborative way. The intended outcome is for our students to be thoughtful risk-takers who engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process to solve real-world problems.
In the 2nd and 3rd grades, colLab groups were tasked to design a candy machine that dispensed two different types of candy using recycled materials. It was impressive to hear the students speak about their rationale for designing their machines the way they did and how they approached redesign when the design was unsuccessful. They applied their critical thinking in collaborative ways that brought about a variety of outcomes.  
The 4th and 5th grade engineering STEAM colLab provided students with a hands-on opportunity to engage in real-world problem-solving. Students delved into various lessons created by the 4th and 5th grade teachers that focused on exploring challenges that help offset climate change and protect the earth’s resources. Each fourth- and fifth-grade teacher created four distinct lessons in which all students rotated through. Similar to the 2nd and 3rd colLabs, students worked with a mixed group of students from 4th and 5th grade. ColLab groups learned the merits of gardening and understanding the methods of sustainable food. They explored solar energy and how it can be stored and utilized. They constructed a device that can collect the plastic in our oceans. They designed a coding program that cleaned up trash. Using the skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving, students created solutions for each task.
The engineering design projects provide the vehicle to translate that foundational thinking into innovative doing. We encourage students to explore the world around them and find innovative ways to create a better place for all. We want them to feel empowered to lead and become responsible global stewards. How fortunate we are to have the support of Ina to organize this year’s offerings.
As an inclusive private school community, Brimmer welcomes students who will increase the diversity of our school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or any other characteristic protected from discrimination under state or federal law, in the administration of our educational policies, admissions practices, financial aid decisions, and athletic and other school-administered programs.