The Educational Environment
We shape our buildings, which then shape us.
- Winston Churchill
Classrooms in the Energy Lab create a novel learning environment, their open layout pushing instructors to rethink pedagogical best practices. Each room smoothly transitions into the next, encouraging cross-pollination between teachers and students alike. Classes taught here span the academic disciplines: physics, art history, robotics, literature of ecology, computer science, digital media, environmental science, astronomy and independent science research. This diversity of subjects attracts a diversity of students, fostering a vibrant intellectual playground. We use the conference room to connect with people around the world, prototype new ideas in the workshop, or discuss the meaning of global citizenship in the large main hall. All strands of learning have a home within these walls.
There is a sense of collaboration, mutual respect and curiosity that emerges from this space. The Energy Lab provides a unique opportunity for each new group of students to grow and develop. In turn, these students revitalize the building with their own talents and perspectives, leading to a constant evolution of the educational environment.
Give people three things: autonomy, mastery and sense of purpose,
and they will work for free, work forever, and produce miracles.
- Dan Pink
One room always buzzing with energy is the monitoring lab, which serves as both the nerve center of the building's telemetry systems and a workspace for independent student projects. In this space, students act as intellectual peers, asking for help or advice in an atmosphere of rigorous investigation and shared purpose. The lab engages students in praxis, the act of applying their academic knowledge to hands-on projects with cutting-edge tools and technology. Each is free to pursue their passion, whether it be data visualization, 3D mapping with quadcopters, human machine interfaces, energy studies or remotely piloted vehicles. This creative crucible enables students to conduct college level research in a high school setting, preparing them for success in their academic and professional lives.
The open layout of the Energy Lab promotes a high degree of visibility for student work. As students explain their projects to curious visitors, faculty and classmates, they build public speaking and leadership skills. These frequent presentations also serve to recruit new team members: a student on her way to physics class might be intrigued by a project underway in the monitoring lab, and later join that team. With such a range of topics under exploration, there is space for each student to find a niche where their skills and interests are valued.
Students keep regular weblogs of their progress on our Energy Lab server physics.hpa.edu. This tapestry of documentation enables a smooth transition of project ownership as graduating seniors hand off their legacy to up-and-coming successors.