Overview - Lighthouse Creativity Lab


by Aaron Vanderwerff -

Recently I was tasked (or really I tasked myself) with creating a writeup of our program at our (Lighthouse Creativity Lab) website.  When I heard  there were questions about embedding making and a maker mindset into standards based curriculum, I thought I would share my writeup here.  In addtion to this overview, we have narratives of ongoing projects at our site. As a public charter school, we are working to integrate making into a CCSS and NGSS aligned curriculum and we are working with other schools in the area to do the same.

The Lighthouse Creativity Lab is integrating making into the Lighthouse Community Charter School program. We approach this work with a growth-mindset, so it is constantly evolving. We have seen that design, making, and inquiry build student ownership of learning, and lead to higher engagement, deeper understanding, stronger character development.

Classroom Integration

Integrating making into the classroom is the core focus of our program. We have built the transcontinental railroad when studying westward expansion, used circuit blocks to investigate electricity, and written programs to learn about Cartesian coordinates. We integrate making when it supports student understanding at a deeper level. This year we are integrating programming and elements of design throughout our K–12 program.

The program director serves as a curricular coach, collaborating with teachers to integrate design, making, and an inquiry stance into practice.


We currently offer a middle school enrichment and high school elective:

7/8 Making Enrichment—As part of an enrichment wheel, all 7th and 8th grade students take this class for one-third of the year. The focus is to help students develop autonomy and creativity. Students engage in projects ranging from creating cardboard hands capable of grasping objects, to programming in Scratch, to creating mini-makerspaces for our kindergarten classrooms.

High School Electives—Lighthouse offers two making electives—robotics and making. In the fall, students in both classes are presented with open-ended challenges in order to learn specific objectives. This is followed by open-ended projects where students take the lead and use their skills to develop their own ideas.

The making class starts with skill-builders: a chair, a pillow, a soldering kit, and an introduction to Arduino. In December, students decide on a project they will spend five months creating in order to showcase at the Maker Faire.

In robotics. students start the year with a set of parts and work together to build and program robots to solve challenges. For example, students program robots to follow a black line as a way of learning to use if-then statements. In the second half of the year, students use what they learn to compete in the Botball competition.

 After-School Program

The Lighthouse Creativity Lab runs two after-school programs:

K–8 Creativity Lab—Students engage in projects that both extend work happening during the school day, as well as expose them to whole new areas of interest.  Our K-4 students engage in weekly classes that give them a chance to design and build projects in a variety of media. Middle school students are given the autonomy to explore areas they are excited to learn about.

High School Creativity Lab—After school, our high school space becomes a drop in makerspace. Students use the space to work on projects their teachers have assigned, to create teacher commissioned projects, and to explore their own passions.

A History of the Lighthouse Creativity Lab

  • Making as a part of Physics since 2009
  • High school robotics class since 2009
  • Making integrated into robotics enrichment since 2010 – Students showcasing projects at Maker Faire Bay Area since 2011
  • K–12 Creativity Lab program starts in 2013-2014
    • 2013-14 – HS Elective + After School + Curriculum integration (coaching) + Professional Development
    • 2014-15 – Added 7/8 elective + HS After School Drop in
  • Future – In the 2016–17 school year, Lighthouse II will open, featuring a maker-centered curriculum