A structured high school environment for unlocking near-limitless possibilities.
“STEAM education” sounds like something you’d get as a barista or an old-fashioned train conductor, not a high schooler. But (spoiler alert) it’s not about boiling water. It’s about learning the kind of skills you actually need in the real world, like critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving, while making cool stuff.
Basically, STEAM learning mixes science, technology, engineering, art, and math. And at Southwest Secondary Learning Center, those STEAM lessons take place in the Smart Lab, a hands-on, project-based classroom where you get to decide what and how you learn.
You Select Your Partner and Project
You start by choosing an assignment prompt from more than 175 Smart Cards written and developed by SSLC teachers. Projects span all kinds of technologies and concepts, from building rockets to making resin jewelry. Tools like 3D printers and laser etching machines give you a chance to learn a new skill and make something you couldn’t have done on your own.
Aside from picking your project, you’ll also pick a lab partner or two. And because SSLC isn’t like other high schools, Smart Lab isn’t divided by grade. Seniors and freshmen can collaborate. You can partner with your friend, or someone who’s knowledgeable about the topic, or someone who turned in a really great project last month.
You Decide What to Do Next
Once you form your group, you have access to every tool and piece of equipment in the lab. The Smart Card gives some guidelines for what’s expected, but you don’t have to limit yourself to what’s printed on the card. You can think outside the box. In fact, you’re encouraged to. And don’t let a lack of experience scare you. If you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment, the teachers will show you how it works.
So what do you choose? Do you play to your strengths and use Smart Lab to explore your interests and hobbies? Are you interested in video game design? Comic books? YouTube? There are projects geared toward all these hobbies and many others. Or do you like a challenge? Try a project based on a totally new skill or technology you’ve never touched before. You might find a new passion.
Can you think of a way the t-shirt printer could be used for your project? Talk to the teacher about incorporating it. Want to use your film skills to document your progress vlog style? Tell your teacher what you have in mind. Even when they draw from the same initial assignment, no two projects are ever going to be completely the same, and what you do and make becomes uniquely yours.
You Choose How to Present Your Results
Throughout your time in Smart Lab, you’ll be keeping a diary of your process and results. What did you choose? What did you think would happen? How did it turn out? In the end, this information and your final product will all come together into a presentation that your group will give to the class.
You can get creative with these presentations. Let your personality shine through. Make it funny. Record video. Include outtakes. Do a deep dive to show your classmates something unique and strange you discovered along the way.
It matters less whether your project was a “success” than what you learned from confronting challenges and working through your plan. If absolutely nothing went the way you wanted, that itself can make for a great story to share with your classmates.
No Albuquerque high school approaches hands-on learning quite like the Smart Lab. From the broad selection of projects to the free-form classroom structure to the technology that’s being added all the time, SSLC offers students something truly unique. If you’d like to learn more about our school or would be interested in enrolling, call (505) 296-7677 to schedule a tour and see the Smart Lab in action.