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In a Virginia school grounded in Gardner's ideas, all K-6 students flock to a hands-on discovery room - a place to explore all the ways of being smart.
Nine-year-old Sean stood in my classroom doorway and surprised me by saying, "I wish I lived here." I had just returned with yet another load of drinking straws to the Think Tank, the combination discovery room and lab that I design and direct at Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. The boy probably coveted a Bucky Fuller geodesic dome made from the straws and paper clips - an item the kids leaving the room were wearing on their heads, showing their teachers, and displaying proudly. Clearly he wanted in to get his hands on something.
On any given day, my students might be constructing a geodesic dome from straws or even with three-foot wooden dowel rods, or they might be engrossed in everything from robotics to how to identify animal footprints. All 620 children at Kent Gardens are scheduled to come to this room for up to an hour every other week. Many come more often, however. Faculty members and volunteer Room Guides (20-30 parents and community members) are trained to help out.
All on Task!
The Think Tank is a large room with a light and open atmosphere. A wall of windows lines the length of it, under which open boxes of project materials are shelved. Rugs, pillows, and plants are scattered about. Mozart or other music is often playing.
Walk into a lab in progress and you see children engaged in a variety of group or individual activities. They may be working on a project at one of the round tables or at "Think It! Do It!" - our invention center. Some may be collaborating on "20 Questions," comfortably propped up on pillows. Others may be searching for objects to view under a microscope, making architectural drawings, or examining the way a door knob works. The spirit and tempo will vary from loud and active to pensive and quiet, but all the students seem to be having fun while working hard. As one 1st …