In the Lower School, students gain hands-on experience with Design Engineering & Computer Science through projects integrated into their classrooms as well as opportunities to engage with the I-Lab faculty both inside and outside of the Hillsborough I-Lab.
Design Engineering projects arise from curriculum-related collaborations between grade-level teachers and I-Lab faculty. Students experience Design Thinking and I-Lab skills as an integral part of their thematic studies. For example, a class studying or working with the chickens in the Garden may visit the I-Lab to learn basic woodworking skills to build coops. Students also practice the Design Thinking process to prototype solutions to help a classmate with a physical challenge such as a broken leg, and as part of their Immigration study, second graders imagine ways to redesign the immigration experience at Angel Island.
The core Design Engineering curriculum, taught in the I-Lab, begins in fourth grade when all students work with an I-Lab faculty for one semester to dive deeply into an engineering challenge.
The theme of Computer Science is also interwoven throughout the Lower School experience, as a part of educating our youngest students on the responsible use of technology. The focus here is to introduce and develop their emerging computing skills: typing, digital storytelling, conceptual programming, search and online research strategies, media literacy, ethical online behavior, and digital communication and collaboration skills.
Formal technology courses begin in first grade, where students gain exposure to computers as tools for enhancing productivity and creative expression. Students also learn to use blocks-based programming environments and practice coding through a series of projects. As with Design Engineering, beginning in fourth grade, students take a dedicated Computer Science course in the I-Lab for one semester. This deepens their skills in computational thinking and coding, and prepares them to transition to our Middle School program.
In addition to these formal experiences, the I-Lab at Hillsborough campus is frequently open during recess and after school so students can drop in and work on personal projects with mentorship from I-Lab faculty.