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Bolton Exploration Lab Combines Behavioral Improvements with Supplementary Learning
May 18, 2023 – Discipline can’t be all about punishments. To promote long-lasting positive conduct in students, educators not only have to set clear consequences for bad behavior, but also display the benefits of good behavior. This philosophy is the guiding force behind Bolton Elementary School’s exploration lab, where a fun, free-flowing educational experience is being used to bring out the best in the Code of Character, Conduct, and Support.
Instructional Technology Facilitator Charlotte Best says that the exploration lab is the product of an effort to turn an available lab space at Bolton into something positive for students. Filled with Lego sets, miniature robots, and toys designed to teach kids coding, the lab welcomes students as young as first grade during their recess periods to try out STEM equipment they might not have access to at any other time. The toys are fun to use and there are no formal lessons to follow, so students who might struggle with the structure of a regular classroom are able to dive into science and technology and learn in whatever manner comes naturally to them.
“We wanted to show the kids that learning can happen through play,” Best said. “They can learn their own way without it being all about what the data says.”
While it wasn’t always the primary goal, the exploration lab has also become an asset to Bolton as educators navigate the first year of the Code. It’s a reward that can be provided or denied based on student behavior, but the citizenship aspect doesn’t end once they get in the door. Making sense of the projects available in the lab often requires cooperation with a team, so getting the most out of the experience necessitates treating others with respect.
“You have to know how to handle yourself in here,” Best said. “We want to use the lab to establish that pattern of kindness and good behavior.”
The lab’s stock of supplies also depends heavily on donors, and educators make that clear to the students who visit. That way, they can recognize that even adults from outside of the school have taken an interest in giving them what they need to learn and succeed. The entire venture is an exercise in forming positive connections with the school community that also promotes learning skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and perseverance. In both respects, Best has been pleased by the number of aha moments that the lab has helped create.
“It’s so important to include everyone in this,” Best said. “It has shown me that when we give students the opportunity to explore, that’s when the light in their heads turns on.”
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