BY Carol Herrmann
Old Rochester Regional Jr. High School
We are planning to create a makerspace, a place where students can create, collaborate, tinker, and experiment. This would be located in a former computer lab space within our existing library and would be part of the transformation of our library into a learning commons. Our plan is to provide both high-tech and low-tech resources (e.g., textiles, craft supplies, electronics, tools, AV equipment) so that students will have a wide variety of materials to work with both during times of free exploration and during guided or supervised exploration.
Students could utilize this space independently during our daily flex period and with staff guidance after school. Additionally, classroom teachers could use the space and materials to enhance and integrate hands-on experiences and tangible products into their curricula. While we anticipate being able to acquire many different types of craft supplies through donations, we are seeking grant funding to purchase our first high-tech components, namely, modular robot blocks called Cubelets.
How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)
A survey was completed by all our 7th graders as part of their library orientation and their top choice for makerspace activities and resources was programmable robots. We therefore anticipate that many students will participate in our Cubelet robotics after-school sessions and also work with them independently during flex periods. We will be tracking after-school attendance for each makerspace session as one measure of success. Exit surveys will help us learn what students liked best about the activities and how we can improve them. In addition, we plan to evaluate, document, and celebrate student successes (and struggles) through photographs and short videos.
Benefit to the students and the school
Experimenting with Cubelet robotics will allow students who are seeking additional challenges in electronics, robotics, coding, 3d printing and creative design the opportunity to develop their skills in a relaxed environment. More generally, makerspace activities encourage a growth mindset among students as they learn that taking risks, making mistakes, failing, and trying again and/or making improvements are all part of the learning process. Helping our students develop a growth mindset is one of our district goals. Makerspace activities also support individualized learning because they encourage students to tinker and create things based on their own interests and ideas; individualizing learning is another one of our district goals.
Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)
As soon as we acquire the robot blocks we will start offering after-school maker activities using them. In the meantime, we plan to start offering other monthly after-school maker activities using free or donated materials by November. These after-school sessions, as well as in-school free exploration during flex periods, will continue throughout the school year.