No matter the age, students have a courageous and contagious level of creativity and they love to put that passion into practice with hands-on experimentation. While this is encouraged in the traditional classroom where possible, specialized environments give them a chance to take it to the next level.
These environments are called Makerspace. These spaces allow students to take what they have learned in the classroom and extend their learning in a very unique, explorative way. The Makerspace environment is tapping into their imagination in a different way, according to their own interests and creativity.
Upon attending a conference in Grand Rapids in 2018, inspiration sparked a team of Pinewood Elementary School teachers. The Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning conference (MACUL) exposed them to other districts who had these types of spaces. They too wanted to encourage this type of learning and make it available to their students so they decided to write a grant that was offered through MACUL.
The grant from MACUL allowed Pinewood Elementary School to implement a Makerspace as part of their extended library time for all grades. It is housed in the library which makes perfect sense as this sort of learning is a natural extension of books! Since the beginning of time, we’ve experienced librarians creating interactive content to engage children and augment their learning.
While in the Makerspace, students are able to explore various learning tools and resources structured to inspire creativity and hands-on learning. The ultimate goal is to have a variety of consumable items that students can use to tinker and create their own masterpieces. Different activities can be added to the rotation to spur fresh exploration. Some incorporate technology while others are purely ‘old-fashioned’ analog exercises.
Pinewood teacher Andrea Pattison oversees the Makerspace and loves watching the students be creative, build, and collaborate with classmates with the age appropriate activities and tools that are in the space. The students’ only negative review is that they never have enough time! The kids do a fabulous job respecting the space and the special tools. She also has a team of Makerspace Champions comprised of 5th and 6th grade students who help organize and run the space.
Students are able to learn how to maximize the Makerspace through the Pinewood Makerspace Website, created by district ACT teacher, Julie Clark. How-to videos and website resources help them make the most of their time in the space and give them options to use outside of school as well. Julie has also gone on to complete an additional grant request for new tools for the Makerspace through the Jenison Public Education Fund.
JPEF has been funding best teaching methods and innovative ideas from JPS educators for over 20 years. Since 1995, JPEF has funded more than 162 programs valued at over $200,000, for the students of Jenison. It is so great to have them partnering with our RELENTLESS, world-class educators to bring these ideas to life.
It is exciting to see the students engage their thoughts and ideas with courage, while facing risk of a mistake. I see huge benefits as these experiences are preparing their brains to see opportunity in a challenge, and is giving the world builders and tinkerers who are not afraid to try and ask, what if?