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Inspiring Innovation

Inspire Innovation Lab focuses on hands-on learning

Imagine a place where students wear capes, put marshmallows in microwaves, build scooters and become inventors. This place is not make-believe.  In fact, it’s called Inspire Innovation Lab and is located in the Moorhead Center Mall.

Inspire Innovation Lab is a nonprofit focused on innovative learning for students, teachers and the community. The Inspire Innovation Lab classroom is nontraditional in every sense of the word. Students can write on the walls, sit on exercise balls and build structures on the vertical Lego wall. The only traditional item is a lone school desk, which serves as a reminder not to be ordinary but extraordinary.

The purpose is to make learning fun and let students experiment in a safe and engaging environment.

Each month has a theme at Inspire. “For example, January was Bubble-ology, so we did everything with bubbles—frozen bubbles, designed a wand and asked ‘does it have to be round?’ The art piece was painting with bubble wrap,” said Carrie Leopold, Inspire Innovation Lab founder.

Leopold didn’t discover her love of science until college. Now, she hopes to go above and beyond to inspire a love for learning at a young age for people in our community, especially underrepresented populations. Workshops like Science Discovery, Little Professors, and Art Afterschool are held for a variety of ages to foster a passion for learning. Workshops are held after school, during the day and weekends. Students recently built an arcade out of furniture boxes. They sold tickets, created prizes and asked passers-by to play their games.

“I hope they are building confidence. I hope they see they can do things they thought they couldn’t. I hope they see new opportunities. I really hope the young girls can see themselves as scientists. I hope they learn collaborative skills to work together.  Learn the dynamics of give and take and to let everyone’s voice be heard,” Leopold said.

Scholarships are available for anyone who can’t afford to pay for the workshops, because inclusivity is a priority at Inspire. “I don’t ever, ever want money to be an issue. That’s why we are a nonprofit. We need to provide opportunities to kids who wouldn’t have it otherwise. I’m not going to turn anyone away.”

On a larger mission she hopes the school districts see the value in more hands-on learning. Leopold is partnering with local schools to pilot the Lunch Box Challenge. In teams, students are given a challenge, but the catch is they can only work on the project during their lunch period.  The first task was to build the tallest structure out of toothpicks and glue that would hold their milk carton. Each team had one week to complete the project.

“If you have high expectations for kids, they will strive. They will go the mile. They will do it,” Leopold said.

Inspire Innovation Lab is igniting curiosity in students, engaging the community and partnering with teachers.

The FM Area Foundation is the fiscal sponsor for Inspire Innovation Lab while they await their 501c3 status. To learn how you can get involved with Inspire Innovation Lab, visit inspireinnovationlab.org.