Conversation at Lab Atlanta

Meet Sarah:Sarah is one of the inaugural students at LAB Atlanta. She just turned 16 this month, and is enjoying the new freedom. She has been a resident of Atlanta most of her life. Sarah was born at Northside Hospital, and lived in Buckhead for a few years before relocating to LaGrange Georgia. She moved back to Atlanta after three years, and has resided here since then. She loves to read, bake, clean and organize, make collages, and decorate. Her passion in life is to learn, not simply memorize, but truly learn. By attending LAB Atlanta, she hopes to finally live out her passion.

Meet Agnès:Agnès Browning is the World Languages and Cultures faculty at Lab Atlanta. Her title sums up one of her passions: learning and understanding how people across the world live and communicate.


Sarah, this is your second week at Lab Atlanta: you have had core classes, engineering and design experiences, as well as met with several key people in the city. How have these first two weeks changed your perceptions of Atlanta?

My perceptions of Atlanta have altered greatly. I can now appreciate the beauty of my city in a way I could not have before. For instance, I see the beauty of community, public art, and diversity of people as well as jobs. My eyes have also been opened up to the issues in our city. The lack of expansive public transportation and our knack for continuing to sprawl without giving due attention to sustainability concern me. Above all else, I have learned to be aware of how much my city can teach me. Sure I can notice a person, but what is his story, and how can I relate that to my entire studies through empathy. That is why LAB Atlanta. That is why learning.

I am amazed at how curious and talented the Founding Class of Lab Atlanta is. Could you tell us about your passion or interests, and how Lab Atlanta fits in the way you will continue to develop them?

I love to learn. I love to notice something, and be able to really study it in depth so that I may find the reasoning behind it. I love to connect all of my studies together. I love to question why. Lab Atlanta is all about answering the why, and that is why it means so much to me. I recently watched a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek. He spoke on the importance of the why, particularly in businesses as opposed to the what, the money or product itself. If you sell a product just to make a profit, you don't care about your customers or improving your design. If you care about a why like “to create easier access to education for all”, then you give all of yourself to your work. This is often described in the sage advice “love what you do” or “do what you love”. I love how Sinek summed up this premise by saying, “...and what you do simply proves what you believe [the why].” I think Lab Atlanta is a prime example of a business modeled off a why and not simply a what, and that is exactly what I needed to restore my love of learning.


Mrs. Browning, you are the language and culture teacher at Lab Atlanta. Why do you think learning about other cultures is so important, especially in the city of Atlanta?

The world has become a very small place and it is important for your generation to have the global skills and knowledge to thrive in it. Throughout my teaching career, I have taught a diversity of students. A large majority of them end up traveling abroad to study, work, volunteer, go on month-long backpack trips, or simply vacation with friends or family.

Being immersed in a foreign environment is a very humbling experience that is fulfilling and frightening at the same time. It challenges your identity and is a true test of the type of person you are. I have experienced this feeling several times in my life; although no class can really prepare you for this, there is a lot you can do to start opening up your eyes, ears, and mind to other cultures. Atlanta and its surrounding neighborhoods are home to thousands of people who were born abroad and are bringing a wealth of traditions while learning about American culture. Creating relationships with them is a great way to build your understanding of the diversity of this world.

I truly believe that education is as much forming opinions based off facts, as it is learning the facts to begin with. Do you think that allowing the students to form opinions is key in what makes Lab Atlanta unique as a school? And do you believe it is also beneficial to challenge their opinions?

It is important to have an informed opinion and understand that experiences, people, and time will challenge this initial opinion.

The goal of all courses at Lab Atlanta is to help students develop deep and meaningful knowledge so they can be informed innovators, leaders, and designers. This process includes for instance meeting a variety of people and collaborating with them, or receiving honest feedback. As this is happening, your perception of a topic or issue will evolve. You will start noticing that every system is made up of parts, and that the sustainability and efficiency of a system depends on the agency and adaptability of the various parts-which are often made up of opinions.

There is nothing more rewarding for us than seeing students grow as true scholars, informed leaders, empathetic designers.