Girl working on a project in STEAM Lab

Top Five Best Things About STEAM Learning

Hands-on learning at Northpoint is a different way to do school.

Have you ever built a rocket? Designed a newspaper? Written a comic book? What if you could spend a week building a giant working model of a ferris wheel…and actually get school credit for it?

Northpoint Charter School students split their time between self-paced online learning and hands-on STEAM-focused lessons in Smart Lab. What is a Smart Lab? It’s a place where you can work on projects that combine multiple skills or areas of study at once. It’s part mad scientist laboratory, part art class, and 100% not sitting in a boring classroom.

Here are five things that make Smart Lab different (and totally better) than what you might be used to at other schools:

It’s Not Just One Subject

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. But it’s not really about teaching those five subjects separately. It’s about the way all of them fit together. Because in real life, you don’t just do math equations for fun. But you might have to calculate how much money you’ll need for gas to drive to class every day. Or know how to read a schematic and use different tools to put together the gaming chair you just ordered online. Life is full of integrated skills.

Every Smart Lab project combines multiple areas of study, so you’re learning a variety of subjects at the same time as you’re seeing how they work together to make something.

You Choose What to Work On

Instead of being assigned work and told what to do, you get to pick a project that interests you from more than 175 available options. Do you want to build a model? Design a rocket? Write a superhero comic? Wherever your interests lie, you’ll find something to work on.

Projects are designed by Northpoint teachers, and they update them every year, adding new ones and getting rid of ones that aren’t as interesting anymore. So there’s something for everyone, and you’ll never run out of new projects to try.

You Can Make Something You Can Hold

So much school work is about sitting still, listening to someone talk, then taking a test. You might learn information that way, but you don’t always have something to show for it. Smart Lab is different. The projects are hands-on, and when you’re done you’ll have something to show to the rest of the class. Maybe it’s a piece of code. Maybe it’s a rocket. But whether it exists in a digital place or physical space, it’s something that exists outside your brain.

It sounds silly, but it’s really cool to see something in the world and say, “Hey, you see that? I did that. I made it, and it exists now.” And when you do something, instead of just thinking about it, you’re more likely to remember it later. You learn better, and it’s more fun.

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

Most of the Smart Lab projects are designed to be worked on in pairs or groups of three. You get to choose your own partner or partners, and you’ve got the freedom to divide up the project and figure out how to work on it together. You’ll have access to the teachers the entire time, too. You work on the projects in class, so you don’t have to spend hours after school on homework. And your teachers will help if you bump into any problems.

Don’t like group projects? There’s some flexibility for solo work as well. You can talk to your teacher about your concerns and find something you can do on your own, or figure out what you need to feel good about working with a partner.

Lessons Prepare You for Real Life

The reason why STEAM is so great is because it teaches you practical skills. Even if you won’t be building bridges out of plastic blocks in real life, learning ways to think outside the box and solve complicated problems will help you in your life. And if you’re interested in art, design, publishing, engineering, or any other field, you can probably find a project that speaks to that interest and will give you a taste of the kind of work skills you’d need in that field.

On the other hand, if you just want to try something because it sounds fun? That’s totally fine, too. The point of Smart Lab isn’t to make a perfect end result or plan your whole future with one project. The point is to experiment, explore, problem solve, have some fun, and discover something new along the way.

School doesn’t have to look the same for everybody. Northpoint is a tuition-free Albuquerque charter school offering an alternative learning environment for students who want to do things a little differently. If the idea of hands-on learning and self-paced lessons sounds like what you’ve always wanted from high school, talk to your parents about enrolling. You can call us at (505) 296-7677 to schedule a tour, or apply for enrollment online.