Carlow campus laboratory school building partnerships with university, community

Pittsburgh, Pa — Jen Roberts, PhD, professor of criminology and criminal justice at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, recently helped an eighth-grader at The Campus Laboratory School of Carlow University shape his experimental plan for his science fair project.

“His project entails whether music impacts concentration when studying,” Roberts said. “He wants to try a wide variety of music, including whether holiday music is particularly distracting. We had a really good discussion.”

Roberts is the parent of another lab school student and one of dozens of professional scientists and Carlow University faculty who have been paired with lab school students to enhance the science fair experience this year. Head of School Jessica Webster said both university and parent scientists were enthusiastic about participating.

“Professors have thanked us for this opportunity,” Webster said. “They don’t see it as another obligation they have to fulfill. The university is very welcoming and interested in how we can work together and support the campus school.”

The science fair mentoring program is just one of many new facets making the campus school shine.

Keely Baronak, EdD, executive director of The Campus Laboratory School of Carlow University and chair of the Department of Education at Carlow University, said it’s her goal to grow enrollment at both the lab school and the university, and to build partnerships between both entities and with the community at large.

“We are really working to ensure our school is known for the true gem it is,” Baronak said.

One polishing job is going on in the lab school’s library, which received a $50,000 Grable Foundation grant for a renovation; students are helping in the design.

“Students on the committee collected input from their peers, created sketches of what they want, made measurements for furniture, worked on budgeting,” Webster said. “It’s been fun to work with them on this real-world project.”

The school also is enhancing its Makerspace, where students can create projects that are paired with curriculum. A recent example involved students creating birdfeeders for use on Carlow’s campus. Plans are in the works for after-school and summer dyslexia literacy programming; and Val Piccini, reading specialist and instructor, together with Sarah Sora, director of the Reading and Literacy Center at the lab school, are coordinating literacy coaching with lab school teachers.

Baronak sees her recent appointment as executive director of the lab school and this July’s hiring of Webster as the perfect chemistry for growth.

“I can interface with the university system of higher education, while Jessica leads day-to-day school operations. Together we work closely to integrate our missions and actualize the strategic plans of the school and Education Department,” she said.

Early childhood education undergraduate students spent Wednesdays this fall working alongside teachers and students at the campus school on phonological awareness, phonics-based instruction, vocabulary and comprehension strategies, and writing workshops.

And university nursing students engage in wellness checks with campus school students and a doctoral student in child psychology interfaces with the students and parents.

“The entire campus community is part of the lab school,” Baronek said.

Another example of a collaboration between the campus school and university is the joint development of a STEM educator workshop series, which will be led by lab school teachers and Rae Ann Hirsh, DEd, associate professor and director of early childhood program at the university, and her students.

“Our campus is a multi-generational learning environment, and our students reap the benefits,” Baronek said.

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