“Achievement is not just academic. It’s freedom and exploration, it’s unlocking the independent spirit inside us all.” Those are words from a community resource for the thinkers, makers and doers of Kansas City. IDEA Space KC is a place for innovation, discovery, entrepreneurship and the arts.
From educators to policy makers, a general agreement concurs that STEAM (science, technology, education, arts and math) education prepares students for a new world. Led by The Barstow School, one of the top 10 independent schools in the nation, IDEA Space will feature a 160-seat theatre for community performances, a Collaborative Commons open to the public year-round, a student-run coffee shop, café and collaborative space.
I spoke to Jennifer Dreiling, the Vice President of External Development, about the city’s brand new creative and collaborative workspace, where students throughout the region will learn the business skills they’ll need to become entrepreneurs.
[Make48]: What is your role at IDEA Space KC?
[Jennifer]: I’m the Vice President of External Development – a fancy title for fundraiser. I am honored to be building relationships with our philanthropic community and in doing so creating partnerships with foundations, individuals and corporations that support broadening and diversifying the pipeline for workforce development.
[Make48]: How did the concept of Idea Space launch?
[Jennifer]: Research has taught us that hands on experiential learning is critical to a child’s educational pathway. Being able to make, to do, to think, creates opportunities that are unique and instills passion for lifelong learning.
IDEA Space KC will be a community resource for our entire region. It will create consistent STEAM learning opportunities early in a student’s education, regardless of district boundaries, with a focus on kindergarten- through grade 12.
The Barstow School has 136 years of educational expertise and excellence in the Kansas City area. After purchasing the 65,000 foot grocery store, we knew that it had the ability to serve so many more than our current 710 Barstow students, that we could truly impact this region’s education and ultimately its pipeline for workforce development.
[Make48]: The Maker + Innovation Space has been praised as the main attraction. Can you describe that space and will anyone be able to utilize the space?
[Jennifer]: IDEA Space will be a community resource open to the entire Kansas City region, where students will engage in hands-on experiences in STEAM, through after-school programs, summer camps and school district partnerships.
The 65,000 sq. foot former grocery store will have a STEAM workshop with a fabrication lab, makerspace, and prototype testing and development areas. There will be a student-run coffee and retail shop, black box theater with dressing rooms, multi-use and athletic space and early childhood education center. Our Collaborative Commons will be a hub for civic meetings, events and professional development.
[Make48]: STEAM concepts play an important part in the education system and The Barstow School was ranked among the nation’s top three percent of all high schools in Newsweek’s top STEM high schools for 2019. What impact does it have for the future of their students?
[Jennifer]: IDEA Space will positively impact all students across the region. Allowing students the opportunity to have significant time in a makerspace and fabrication lab will teach them skills not otherwise learned in a traditional classroom setting.
[Make48]:Since the lockdown, I heard that Idea Space was being used with an important partnership… packaging and distribution hub so one million meals can be delivered to food-insecure families in western Kansas. What other kind of challenges have there been since Covid-19 for your space and the plans for opening?
[Jennifer]: To meet high demand, we have just been given the approval to double the number of meals packaged at IDEA Space. The Outreach Program along with The Kansas National Guard will now assemble two million meals to people in Kansas impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for nutrient-dense, shelf-stable, protein-rich meals is urgent in western Kansas communities impacted by closures in the meatpacking and processing industry.
We are continuing to build relationships and partnerships within the community to support the efforts of IDEA Space. Right now, funders are giving so generously to critical-need groups. While we continue to seek supporters, we respect the high need for philanthropy across Kansas City.
What we do know is that, during this uncertain time, we are more certain than ever that IDEA Space is critical to education and will be even more relevant post COVID-19.
To support their mission of IDEA Space KC visit their website https://www.ideaspacekc.org