History of The Ulmer Family Light Lab

The Light Lab was designed with four Makerspaces in the areas of: natural sciences, fabrication, media and computing, and design. These spaces are meant not to belong to any one teacher, but rather to allow Lower School teachers to build on their integrated curriculum and provide the space and the tools to integrate instruction. Our students are growing up in an incredibly connected world, and it no longer makes sense to teach in isolation.

To further help our students become agents of change in creating a more just world is to give them opportunities for designing and making. We want them to see the impact they can haveover objects and systems in their world. To this end, our students are being exposed to a human-centered design thinking process, which asks,

"How can I create something that would make something easier for someone else?”

In her book Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, Sylvia Libow Martinez says, “Empowering students is an act of showing trust by transferring power and agency to the learner. Helping young people learn how to handle the responsibility that goes along with this power is the sensible way to do it. Creating opportunities to develop student voice and inspiring them with modern tools and modern knowledge needed to solve real problems is part of this job.”

FCS Receives $1 Million Gift for Lower School

In January of 2016 Head of School Craig Sellers announced that Friends’ Central alumnus Rich Ulmer ’60 and his wife, Bev, pledged $1 million to bring to life the Lower School Light Lab. The gift honors Rich’s parents, Audrie Gardam Ulmer ’37 and Walter Ulmer, and his sister, Carolyn Ulmer Gorman ’66.

Designed to spark the imagination, creativity, and problem-solving mindset children will need to succeed in a rapidly changing world, the Light Lab felt like the right place for the Ulmers to put their gift. Rich shared, “I love the idea of starting young, of exposing little kids to new and exciting materials and ideas and letting them explore, asking questions and looking for answers, but not necessarily finding them. It’s really about the process of learning, not an end product. Bev and I identified with the purpose of this project and feel a connection to the idea of a Light Lab, a place designed to light up inquiry-based learning as soon as possible in a child’s life.”

Sellers was thrilled to share this exciting news of the Ulmers’ generosity with the community. He commented,

“The Ulmer Family Light Lab puts Friends’ Central at the very forefront of education. In addition to providing a facility that has no equal for our youngest students, we see this as a visionary investment in teaching and learning that recognizes the importance of making, designing, prototyping, and the like as integral to great education. I am thrilled that Rich and Bev are making such an incredible contribution to transforming the Friends’ Central experience for years to come.”