PLAINFIELD — While there is often no way around the typically American primary, middle and high school experience, Assistant Plainfield Community School Corporation (PCSC) Superintendent Dr. Mary Giesting will soon be moving into a new role designed to augment learning experiences for many Plainfield children.

Beginning July 1, 2018, Giesting will move to the newly created role of director of the Imagination Lab. Giesting has been instrumental in the vision and development of the new learning facility.

“The lab came to be when the town alerted our district to the fact that they were no longer wanting to use the natatorium connected to Clarks Creek Elementary School,” Giesting said.

Clarks Creek began as a middle school, and when it was built, the natatorium was state of the art. When the school was converted for use as a middle school, the pool was used as part of our middle and high school program for the first year. The parks department then asked if they could use the pool as part of an extension of its program.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Giesting said. “They let us know last spring that they were going to do some remodeling and would no longer need that space and were going to give it back to us. We considered what to do with it. We decided we didn’t need it for school programs. We considered tearing it down, but then began imagining what we could really do with the space.”

Giesting said that the board began thinking philosophically about some of the things the district could do better.

“What could we do if we looked beyond the test?” she said. “What if we didn’t let the ISTEP test be the end all of all things? What if we look beyond the test at what we really want to do for our students? Then, we came up with the idea of the Imagination Lab.”

Giesting said Plainfield students need a place where they can take risks and make mistakes.

“The things that impact us the most in our professional and personal lives come more from the mistakes we make than all the things we do right,” she said. “Kids can learn from mistakes and develop confidence. They will learn from hands on experience. They’ll get dirty, build things, create things and play. Children learn from play. Through that, we’ll take learning beyond the paper and pencil environment that we tend to have in our current classrooms. We wanted a space where kids could extend their learning in science and learn about all the new careers that are in the world.

“The modern education movement is a consequence of federal and state government. We want to make sure kids are learning at high levels, and there’s a test that measures that. But we’ve also talked about how we do not want to define a student just by how they do on that test. A failing student will lose that joy for learning and their confidence levels go down. Learning for them becomes difficult, and then they give up. The test tells us what we need to work on, but every student can learn and every student can be passionate about something.”

Encouraging the discovery of what students are passionate about is the theme of the Imagination Lab.

An area devoted to chemistry and biochemistry will be available in which students may conduct experiments. Green rooms will help students develop skills in video science as they draw out story boards and create and edit video.

“We’ll also have coding programs for virtual and augmented reality,” Giesting said. “There are so many coding products out there that are created for young minds. We have these stoppers in our brains because we think we can’t do it. Children don’t have that. This is a time for them to augment their classroom time with Imagination Lab. Then, they’ll take that creativity and that excitement back to the classroom.”

Construction on the lab will be complete in 2018.

“I’ll have a front row seat,” Giesting said. “I’ll be able to make sure we add dimensions to learning based on the experience that I’ve had as a teacher and as assistant superintendent.”

The Imagination Lab will welcome kindergarten through fifth-grade students who are a part of the PCSC busing program. Children will have access to the Imagination Lab at least one or more times a month. Eventually, the lab will expand to include programs for middle and high school students.

PCMS Principal Pat Cooney will transition to Assistant Superintendent, replacing Giesting. This will become official July 1, 2018.

“While the concept for the Imagination Lab grew out of ongoing discussions about changing the focus of student engagement,” Superintendent Scott Olinger said, “Mary has taken the concept to new levels. She is the perfect leader to oversee the launch of the Imagination Lab, which is a rare opportunity to create something from nothing.”

Follow Hendricks County Flyer Reporter Stephanie Dolan on Twitter @StephanieDolan.

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