FSHA to Create Innovation Lab With Challenge Grant

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy recently received a major boost in its ongoing effort to build a curriculum and environment that meets the ever-changing standards of a 21st-century world. The all-girls college prep school has been awarded a $50,000 challenge grant by the Edward E. Ford Foundation that will support the research and development of an Innovation Lab — an on-campus hub specifically designed to foster collaboration, design thinking and project-based learning.
“We’re a technologically integrated school,” said Sister Carolyn McCormack, president of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. “Our girls are working each day on their laptops and school is deeply connected to the whole effort to do significant research for their work. We’re looking for creative engagement in math and sciences, and this space that we’re looking to create will provide our kids with many opportunities for ongoing and continued growth.”
The plan is for the Innovation Lab to serve as an early prototype for classroom spaces that will be built as part of a separate and larger-scale renovation project. As faculty members use the Innovation Lab to gain immediate experience incorporating technology into the classroom, school officials will be able to research and test this new teaching environment on a smaller scale — in an effort to be smarter about how the new classrooms are constructed.
“We know our high school renovation work is in the future and we don’t want to wait until then to be able to offer our girls the opportunity to engage in an experience that is very common and popular today,” said McCormack. “We’re about making this happen and then allowing this project to feed into whatever other renovations come for the high school building in the future.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart launched a 1-1 Laptop Program in 2012, an initiative that put technology at the fingertips of all students and revitalized the curriculum. There are also other ways in which the school is seeking to enhance this type of learning.
“Our honors scientific research class and one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary research program are just two examples of the unique and innovative curriculum at FSHA,” Sherrie Singer, assistant principal for curriculum and instruction, said in a statement. “The Innovation Lab will give us the space to explore and create using the critical thinking skills needed for the 21st-century workforce.”
In accordance with Ford Foundation policy, the school must raise $100,000 of its own money by June 30 of next year in order to receive the $50,000 — hence the “challenge” aspect of the grant.
“We are really hoping to continue to draw from the generosity of our families,” said McCormack. “We have an annual fund that we hope will create additional gifts that will help us meet this E.E. Ford goal. We have a great commitment from our board of directors, tremendous commitment from faculty and staff. … Our hope is that that energy and fundraising from our community will continue to drive this effort to provide a beautiful new space for our girls.”
Once funding is secured, Flintridge Sacred Heart will research other schools and work with educational experts to identify the best location, furniture, technology and equipment needed for the Innovation Lab.
“It’s just very exciting to see how this space idea has really caught fire on the hill, so to speak,” McCormack said. “People are excited about it and engaged in what it might look like.”
The Ford Foundation supports independent, private secondary schools (grades 9-12) as well as state and regional branches of the National Association of Independent Schools, with a specific emphasis on advancing best practices in teaching and learning.

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