“I have students knocking on my door, ” said Caroline Latham, Principal of St. Joseph’s High School, “coming in and just sharing how much fun they’re having.” Principal Latham shared her inspiration for bringing in School Fab Lab stations and curriculum to her all-girls Catholic school. School Fab Lab’s co-founder Nader Shaterian interviewed her in her office. She called having School Fab Lab at SJHS “life-changing for my student body.”
Watch the Interview, read the transcript below.
Nader Shaterian, Co-founder, School Fab Lab:
Tell us it’s a little bit about your school and program, why is it so different from other Catholic private schools?
Caroline Latham, Principal, St. Joseph’s High School:
Based on the mission of our school and wanting to provide those opportunities for young women in the space of science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics, it just seemed ideal to have all the components that School Fab Lab has to offer our students.
As a principal, how do you see your role in bringing the science and technology and STEM education, and introduce new technology, to the kids, and to your teachers actually?
That it’s really important that it be fully integrated in the curriculum. So, even though we have Fab Lab courses, teachers are being trained on how to utilize the components of the Fab Lab in their ordinary lessons and curriculum. And I think that’s really key because students have to see that this can be used in the real world. And I think lessons, when they’re ingrained in project-based learning, it really gives them that opportunity.
So, in a way, how to get the students excited about what they’re learning so they can comprehend it in a better way…
Absolutely. I found that, through these various projects over the years that I’ve worked with students, in working with these STEAM components, that they don’t want to leave the classroom, they just want to keep working. There’s so much enthusiasm and excitement. I have students knocking on my door, coming in and just sharing how much fun they’re having. And how often does a principal get to have that opportunity, that students will come in and say how much they love it, and thanking me? It’s just it’s been a wonderful experience so far.
Can you tell us a little bit about the journey and how did your staff start buying into it and getting motivated?
It was actually surprisingly easy for me, easier than I thought it was going to be. I think School Fab Lab really assisted in that, because you provided such wonderful professional development, through a badging program, that teachers could learn at their own pace and then bring it into their classrooms as they felt comfortable.
When you go about building such a project, what are the challenges, and where do you see School Fab Lab really helping you from design planning, even providing you with poster banner material, and teacher training?
Luckily, through the help of School Fab Lab, you helped us envision what the space could look like using a virtual reality and augmented reality type of software. So that we can figure out placement of where to put everything, and if indeed, what I saw as a periodical room as part of the library, how we can envision and really change the design. So it was really like STEAM coming forth into action. We were able to take a problem and go about and how to figure out how to solve it.
Do you envision a School Fab Lab / Makerspace new learning environment to be built in every school of the future?
I do! I mean, I do feel that School Fab Lab should be in every school because it really helps promote the ingenuity and creativity, that every child should be a maker, that every child and student should have all the opportunities to pursue things that they imagine, and take it from an idea, design it and create it and make it become a reality. And even if a student or child fails along the way, what an incredible learning experience it is for them to take something and then really bring it to fruition, and if it fails just keep working on it. They indeed believe very strongly in the mission of the school and educating under-privileged young women that, you know, some of them are in foster care, some of them are homeless. And for them, to make this an opportunity, is life-changing for my student body. So, I have so much to be grateful for, it’s unbelievable.