By Laren Hammonds
Teacher, Rock Quarry Middle School
As an aspiring archaeologist in middle school and high school, I spent many a sweltering week on the Alabama Museum of Natural History's summer expeditions, digging along with other campers and archaeologists at sites in both Alabama and Mississippi to uncover bits of our history. Those experiences helped to shape many of my beliefs about teaching and learning, and because of that I was thrilled to learn that the museum recently opened their GeoTech Lab in Smith Hall on the University of Alabama campus.
Funded through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the lab, which officially opened in July 2013, is one of only two of its kind in the southeast. Allie Sorlie, Education Outreach Coordinator for the museum, says the goal is to give teens access to tech they might not be able to use at home or in their schools. Their hardware offerings currently include fifteen iPads, seven laptops, and fifteen GPSs used for geocaching and other activities, and students can access many different pieces of software and apps for creating projects. Access to 3D printers is also available through other sites on campus.
The lab operates under the principles of HOMAGO. The term, which stands for "Hanging out, messing around, geeking out," refers to spaces and learning activities that allow for flexibility, hands-on experimentation, collaboration, and tinkering in areas of personal interest. Because of this philosophy, much of the lab's time is spent in open sessions, during which students can work on projects of their own choosing. Mentors - UA students in fields such as engineering, geography, and environmental science - are available for support and can offer guidance and expertise with the available tools.
Right now the lab hosts open sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6pm. However, starting in the spring, open labs will be available each Thursday, plus the coordinators will add formal workshops every Saturday. Check out the schedule below for some of the spring workshop offerings:
Game Shop on January 11:
Learn how to code your own video game
3D Creations on January 25:
Learn how to use Google Sketch-Up to create your own 3D printable object
Digital Design on February 15:
Learn how to design in Photoshop and Illustrator and enter your ideas for a GeoTech Lab logo into their logo contest
Headstart for College on March 1:
Learn Excel, PowerPoint, Prezi, and other programs that will help give you a headstart for college
My Global Position on March 15:
Learn how to use GPS units through geocaching, and create story maps of where you have been
Want to use some of the GeoTech Lab's equipment and expertise for a lesson or project? Contact Allie Sorlie to schedule a pop-up lab, and the lab will come to you! See the information below to get started.
Allie Sorlie - Education Outreach Coordinator