The Academy Makerspace
Room 310 on the third floor of the Lower School wing has been made over many times transitioning from sleeping quarters for the Sisters to classroom, to music room, to faculty room, to Middle School science room. But the make- over undertaken during the summer of 2017 was the most exciting one by far. With the Academy's STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) initiative well underway, President Randall Adams announced the decision to create our own educational makerspace to enhance the curriculum for students in grades 4 through 8 and to augment instructional time for younger and older students through enrichment opportunities.
What is a Makerspace?
Makerspaces are places open to a community of users for the purpose of designing, engineering, fabricating, and educating the community it serves. It is a space that provides manufacturing tools and equipment that people, and in the case of the Academy, students can use to develop their own ideas, experiment with designs, build prototypes, and learn how to work in a collaborative environment.
Features of the Academy Makerspace
Our makerspace features work benches and stools, a Starboard, and segregated spaces for computers, design, and group projects. Makerspace equipment slated for purchase over a period of time include: 3DPrinters, sewing machines, laser cutters, circuit boards and other pieces for electronics, soldering materials, a new of set of 30 Chromebook tablets, and a whole slew of items that you would find in your grandfather's workshop.
The Plan for Implementation
Starting in the fall of 2017, students in grades 4 through 8 will have one 45-minute Makerspace class per week. Students in grades 4, 5, and 7 will be taught by Ms. Holder and those in grades 6 and 8 will be taught by Mrs. Glennie. These classes are part of the ETCH (Explore, Think, Challenge, Hone) program and will be in addition to STEAM classes that also meet once per week. These tools will be at the fingertips of our students to enable them to MAKE or CREATE in any way they wish.
As the Academy's STEM specialist/teacher, Ms. Holder has refined her classes to incorporate new inquiry-based projects. Her curriculum now more closely follows the National General Science Standards for science, technology, engineering and math concepts and she has slowly introduced art and design as well. This progression of the program has led the way for the STEAM initiative.
New STEAM and Makerspace classes will pose open-ended questions for students to solve. Students will be tasked with the responsibility to research the issue, decide on a solution and use the tools/equipment to create a model of their project. For example, 7th-8th grade students might be given a question like this: There are several issues in the weather patterns throughout the world in which the environment is being damaged. Discover and research one of these problems, and as a group, develop a unique physical product that would help combat that problem in a particular community (human or other living beings) of the world.
Additionally, the Makerspace will be open to younger and older students who wish to use it after school and through enrichment opportunities.
Benefits to Students
The benefits of makerspaces:
- Significant impact on learning and development
- Learner-centered, hands-on approach to problem solving
- Real-world career exploration experiences
- Preparation for the future skills needed in the 21st Century
In fact, makerspaces were recently identified as one of six important developments in educational technology for K-12 education by the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report for 2015, which states, “Makerspaces are increasingly being looked to as a method for engaging learners in creative, higher-order problem-solving through hands-on design, construction, and iteration” (p. 38).