“Once the bell rings my friends and I make our last few steps toward the doorway of the ILab,” said Brianna Joseph, a sophomore here at Brien McMahon High school. “Instead of getting a dreadful feeling for the first time in a while i'm excited to attend class.”
The ILab is a program started by administrators here at McMahon that exposes students to different learning techniques and allows students to become more involved in their educational experience. The staff has developed a curriculum that focuses on skills that are enhanced through real world, relevant, community-based experiences.
I was able to take a deeper look into the ILab. Here, students are chosen by administrators to be apart of a program that offers alternative approaches as a way to make students take ownership of the classroom. The program, which was started this year, redesigned the old I.S.S. room, providing new technology, updated furniture, and easy access to outdoor activities. However, recently teachers met to brainstorm ideas to help students take more ownership of the room. Their idea: paint.
Teachers allowed students to make four groups, let students choose a song, and really dive deep into the lyrics and figure out what the song means to them.The students researched and studied famous murals throughout the world. After students analyzed the lyrics, they sketched a painting to symbolize the message the song gave them. Students worked extremely hard, each student measured the dimensions needed for the murals and figured out the costs through a Go-Fund-me page they had made with the guidance of staff.
Mr. Thompson, a teacher here at McMahon for two years, was asked over the summer to help out with the program. Thompson took the position because he believes in the importance of a, “non traditional classroom environment.”
“There needs to be more avenues for students to learn about the real world,” said Thompson. “McMahon used to offer numerous classes such as auto mechanics, workshops and other useful materials to prepare students to learn skills to use outside of highschool, now they don't, and I feel as if all students should get a similar opportunity.”
Brianna Joseph (‘21), has already found success in the program, even after a short period of time.
“The teachers here are fair and understanding,” said Joseph. “And in my opinion it's better than being in a regular classroom. They're very hands on.”
Painting is Brianna's favorite part about the ILab, she worked together with her teammates to create an idea for their space of the wall, “a sunset,” a word she used to describe her painting as bright yellow sun in the horizon. “The biggest weapon is to stay calm and peaceful. The world is a very toxic place and we need more love and peace,” Brianna explained.
One of Brianna's classmates, Yamiel Alexander, a junior here at McMahon, overheard our conversation and began to pitch in, “I don't know, I guess I feel special being chosen out of a lot of students in the school.”
Yamiels favorite part about the ILab is “ingenuity” an online classroom that allows you to makeup credits from high school classes. On his space of the wall, Yamiel and his teammates worked on a piece described as “a boardwalk facing the mountains which symbolizes a new beginning,” its a way of representing a new path and the amazing journeys that lay ahead of you.
“We prefer to create an environment where learning is holistic.” said staff members of the ILab. “Meaning it includes not just subjects but also community service, interpersonal relationships, and a major focus on the future.”
Given these opportunities, students are able to see class as something enjoyable. The ILab is a very unique environment where the staff and students are very comfortable and communicate well with each other, something public schools need more of for their students futures.