Leslie Castenada, a seventh grader at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood, is excited to explain the video game she created for school fitness classes using the SCRATCH computer programming tool. At the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school’s new Saban IDEALab, Castenada shares her enthusiasm with visitors, including Amy Wakeland, wife of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The Saban IDEALab, the physical hub housing Archer’s Integrated Design and Engineering Arts program, opened Oct. 8, expanding the private school’s commitment to early STEM proficiency. The goal is to boost the number of women pursuing careers in engineering and computer science.
“Archer is proud to stand at the forefront of advancing girls in STEM and to be working toward a future where women are not only contributors to STEM solutions, but leaders in the field,” says Archer Head of School Elizabeth English.
While honing their spatial skills on a 3-D printer and learning about digital design and fabrication on a laser cutter, the students are gaining something even more valuable – creativity, systematic reasoning and collaboration.
Through project design, the students have the opportunity to have meaningful, hands-on experiences, learning important problem-solving strategies along the way. “The key to 21st century education is deep experiences in science, arts, math,” says Mike Carter, Archer’s Engineering and Design coordinator. “It’s not just about engineering. It’s about innovation, curiosity and sharing ideas.”
To bring STEM skills into every student’s knowledge base, technology is an integrated component of learning at Archer. Student projects have included an app that helps students connect with each other for homework help, and a pedestrian bridge to span Sunset Boulevard, designed using vector mechanics.
“Archer’s commitment to making meaningful connections between girls and science, technology, engineering and math boosts girls’ self-confidence in these fields. This critical self-confidence will drive the empowered female leaders of tomorrow while allowing them to celebrate academic accomplishments,” says philanthropist and author Cheryl Saban, Ph.D., whose support of the IDEALab is reflected in the name of the new space. “I am proud to be associated with such an important initiative that shapes young minds of girls throughout our community and the world. The facility will equip them with real-world problem-solving skills to create change across the globe.”
The school, housing grades six through 12, raised the necessary funds for the lab through The Cheryl Saban Self Worth Foundation for Women and Girls; Roberta Weintraub, former president of LAUSD; the Edward E. Ford Foundation and Archer supporters.
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