BY Sarah Hines
In 2015 steps were taken to institute a makerspace in the Lawrence School Library. Two years later and the makerspace is continually growing and evolving as new students enter the school. The makerspace, essentially a place for students to invent, create, take risks, tinker, and “make”, is comprised of art supplies, app-enabled robots, iPads, circuits, a 3D printer, and more. Students are able to utilize the space during school hours and after school at monthly Maker Club meetings. The club began with a small number of students and has grown to over 20 students. As the space grows and becomes more popular, it is essential to have more supplies and technologies available to students. This grant would allow us to enhance our coding repertoire by purchasing another Sphero and two devices to control Spheros (which we will be purchasing more of this year).
Our makerspace allows students to operate without grades or curriculum pressures. While some of our after school meetings have an agenda, most times students are allowed to work on free-choice projects in groups or independently. At the end of last year, ten minutes we set aside at the beginning of each Maker Club meeting for students to work on a “Quickfire Challenge”, where they completed a small task and competed against one another for prizes. These challenges used STEM objectives and critical thinking skills to complete. The goal is to have a “Sphero-Palooza” this year, where students will compete in a group to complete obstacles by coding Spheros. To make this happen, we need more supplies for our growing club.
How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)
The success of a makerspace is very hard to gauge. As the number of students has increased this past year in our Maker Club and using the space at lunch, I can see that interest has also increased. Students are constantly talking about the space with their peers, which in turn, means more students want to use the space. For a makerspace, that is success. Also, by speaking with the students continuously throughout the year, they are able to tell me what works and what doesn’t in the space. While it’s not a very technical way to gauge success, as long as my students are learning, trying new things, and finding enjoyment and excitement in the process of experimenting and creating, that is a success.
Benefit to the students and the school
This year, our school had to cut STEM classes because of safety concerns in the science labs due to the large size of the incoming 7th grade class. Because of this, our makerspace is more important than ever for STEM-related activities. Our students have very strict schedules and curriculum constraints that aren’t a concern in the makerspace. For example, a student only has 60 days in their engineering class based on a trimester schedule. A student might discover they have a deep interest in circuitry, but as the class ends after 60 days, they have to abandon their project. Students can continue to discover their passions in the library makerspace, without a timeline or an attached grading scale. This grant would assist us in broadening the coding curriculum beyond the classroom and would allow students to code without the pressures of a grade. They are given time to teach themselves and create their own projects independently or in a group.
Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)
Maker Club starts the first month of school and continues through June. The Sphero Ollie and iPod Touches will get used immediately. The plan is to meet for a few months after school and gauge student interest and numbers, and then purchase more Spheros to enact Sphero-Palooza this winter.
Please see the attached PDF for photographs from Maker Club. Students can be seen using Spheros, Tinkercad on the Chromebooks to design with the 3D printer, littleBits circuits, and craft supplies.