Friday, March 25, 2016

Maker Mondays in the SHS Library

There’s a movement afoot in Isle of Wight County Schools.  It’s a maker movement and it’s made its way in to many of our schools, beginning as a grassroots initiative by a handful of teachers.  We’ve been hearing about makerspaces in the education world for the past few years, but for people outside of education, it may be a new term to them.  So what is a maker?  According to our friends at 757 MakerSpace in Norfolk, “Makers seek out opportunities to learn to do new things, especially through hands-on, DIY (do it yourself) interactions.”  A makerspace is a place where making occurs.  It’s filled with materials and equipment for use by makers to create and invent, with the only limitation being their imagination and often involves robotics, coding and programming.

One of our schools providing a MakerSpace and maker mentality for our students is Smithfield High School.  Librarians Jill Peerey and Minette Brooks, along with Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT) Karen Franklin, have started Maker Monday’s in the library during lunchtime.  Students can visit the library during lunch to unleash their creativity.  They can use littleBits and Cubelets, both are small electronic blocks that connect with magnets to create circuits and perform certain functions.  Different arrangements can create different responses and it’s great to watch the students think through their combinations to find out what will happen as they move parts around. They also use kits called Makey Makey that transform ordinary household items into touchpads.  Students can play a song on the piano by tapping on bananas, or play Pac Man using oranges.  If you’re scratching your head, I completely understand.  I believe you have to see this in action to comprehend making and a makerspace.  To that end, in the SHS Makerspace video, you can see how these devices work.   You will also notice a range of emotions and skills from the students.  You will see intensity, excitement, concentration and collaboration.  

Providing students access to a makerspace helps to promote creativity and logic, key skills students need for success during and after high school.  As we revise our instructional program to offer several new, in-house career and technical courses, we will be adding a MakerSpace course to our curriculum.  We will also be offering students at all levels more access to MakeSpaces and robotics.    As we move toward deeper learning, with an emphasis on project based learning, the MakerSpace movement will go from grassroots to mainstream and that “makes” me excited about the possibilities for our students.