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Principia School Works to Expand Experiential Education in St. Louis

Principia School Works to Expand Experiential Education in St. Louis

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The world has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. It’s more digital, more interconnected and more complex. For many schools around the country, the old model of education can’t keep up.

But Principia School is determined to stay ahead of the curve.

Based in St. Louis, Principia School is an independent, co-educational college preparatory school that offers innovative programming to kids ranging in age from preschool to high school. The institution recently announced the launch of the region’s first SmartLabs – dubbed “IDEA Labs” – to offer students state-of-the-art learning environments focused on STEM principles. They’re a gamechanger for the school.

“We wanted to have students really tackling the challenges of the 21st century, and that included technology,” says Peter Dry, head of innovation and strategy at Principia. “We wanted to diversify their skills so they’d be better [prepared] to tackle those challenges.”

Principia added two IDEA Labs to its halls to engage students with practical problem-solving and exploration in computer science, mathematics, software engineering, digital art, communication and more. Think of them like high-tech workshops, where kids are encouraged to investigate the world around them.

In response, the fleet-of-foot administration constructs a curriculum around what’s driving the imagination of the students in the classes. Principia then uses these findings along with foundational educational principles to build a model that can be followed for years to come.

“We go through their entire curriculum and look for those ‘a-ha’ moments,” says Tommie Traylor, STEM facilitator and integration specialist at Principia.

Traylor works with instructors to modernize lesson plans. This often includes looking for ways to engage senses beyond sight or sound and incorporating these additions into classes. Using the labs makes lessons more accessible, more relevant and more authentic.

“If you’re able to get it that old-school way and be able to touch it, that’s great,” he says.

The addition of these tools didn’t happen overnight. The spaces remained open for three years while the school’s representatives embarked on a nationwide tour to find the right system and technology that fit Principia’s culture of innovation.

The labs were well worth the wait. In addition to helping Principia rethink its educational model by prepping students with real-world experience, Dry says the administration is looking for ways to offer these tools to other area schools.

“We have tremendous resources to share, and we’re excited to provide access to people who don’t normally have access.”

Principia School, 13201 Clayton Road, St. Louis, principiaschool.org

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