Essential Question: Why does Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary need a makerspace?
After reviewing the Sitka School District’s Vision, Mission, and Value Statements (2016), it becomes clear that a makerspace in each of its schools would be an excellent resource in helping students achieve the goals of these statements.
Vision: Educating our children to realize their potential and contribute in a connected global society.
Mission: Foster each child’s maximum growth in academics, social-emotional and physical well-being. Prepare children for their chosen careers, and inspire them to become active, informed community members by providing:
- Relevant, innovative, and engaging learning opportunities;
- Clear goals and high expectations;
- Opportunities for collaboration among students, parents, staff, and community using an active outreach to stakeholders; and,
- A culture of respect for self and others, and no tolerance for bullying.
- Children as the top priority
- Academic excellence
- High quality staff
- Cultural understanding, respect and equity
- Education as a community responsibility
- Holistic educational opportunities
- Preparing children to make effective life choices
- Community and global citizenship
Not every student will find success from a textbook. As educators, we are well aware of this. In decades past, many of these students would have found their calling in industrial arts classes, mastering the art of fractions in a woodworking class or learning about physics in a small engine class. As budget cuts have led to the reduction or elimination of these types of class offerings in schools, many of our students are not being given an opportunity to realize their potential or discover their true passion within the walls of our schools.
Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE magazine and creator of Maker Faire, defines a makerspace as “… [A] space where kids have the opportunity to make – a place where some tools, materials, and enough expertise can get them started. These places, called makerspaces, share some aspects of the shop class, home economics class, the art studio and science labs. In effect, a makerspace is a physical mash-up of different places that allows makers and projects to integrate these different kinds of skills (n.d.).” A makerspace is to our youth what home economics and shop classes were to past generations…they are the updated version of industrial arts. And they are important. As Martinez and Stager (2013) note, “The 21st century is going to see the integration of these tools into every college major and career choice. This is a matter of agency and personal empowerment. Engineering and art are interrelated; computer programming is mandatory for biologists, musicians, and historians. We can do our children no better service than to introduce them to the powerful ideas that will shape the rest of their lives.”
Jeremy Sambuca (2015), EdTech Director, innovator, and maker, writes, “The Maker Education Initiative (Maker Ed) is a relatively new initiative to create more opportunities for students to make and, by making, build confidence, foster creativity, and spark interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and learning as a whole. This endeavor takes place in a makerspace, which typically includes modern technologies such as 3D printers and a lasercutter, as well as traditional “Shop” hand and power tools. In this space, you will often see students using the design thinking process to ideate, confront a challenge or question, then prototype (build, test, revise) a solution.” What better way to “foster each child’s maximum growth in academics, social-emotional and physical well-being,” than to provide them with access to the opportunity through a well thought out makerspace in which they can exceed their own expectations in grow in ways that a traditional learning model could never allow.
Dr. Stuart Brown (2010), author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, writes of an experience at Jet Propulsion Labratories. JPL was hiring the top graduates, but some weren’t producing the type of work expected of them. “The JPL managers went back to look at their own retiring engineers and . . . found that in their youth, their older, problem-solving employees had taken apart clocks to see how they worked, or made soapbox derby racers, or built hi-fi stereos, or fixed appliances. The young engineering school graduates who had also done these things, who had played with their hands, were adept at the kinds of problem solving that management sought. Those who hadn’t, generally were not. From that point on, JPL made questions about applicants “youthful projects and play” a standard part of job interviews. Through research the JPL managers discovered that there is a kind of magic in play, (p. 10)”. JPL researched the reasons behind the lack of productivity from their employees, which means the work has been done for us as educators. If elite companies aren’t just looking for brilliance in the form of top grades, but rather a fuller complement of skills which come from hands-on experience, we need to help the work force of tomorrow acquire these skills. A makerspace can provide them with, “relevant, innovative, and engaging learning opportunities.“
“Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills… makerspaces are not necessarily born out of a specific set of materials or spaces, but rather a mindset of community partnership, collaboration, and creation,” states Christina Jones (2012), a librarian looking to bring making to her community in order to build community and global citizenship through the experience of making. A makerspace in Sitka schools would provide, “opportunities for collaboration among students, parents, staff, and community,” through Maker Days, sharing of information within and across grade levels, and through students working together to find solutions to problems.
“Schools must embrace future trends and prepare students to be lifelong learners who are creative and innovative, responsible for their own education, confident in using new technological tools, capable of solving complex problems, and able to communicate as global citizens (Sambuca, 2015)”.
Brown, S. (2010, April 6). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Penguin Group. New York, NY.
Dougherty, D. (n.d.). The maker mindset. Retrieved from https://llk.media.mit.edu/courses/readings/maker-mindset.pdf
Jones, C. (2012, May 13). A WAPL recap. The library as incubator project. Retrieved from http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=4594
Martinez, S. L. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Torrance, CA.
Sambuca, J. (2015, January 20). Makerspaces: Industrial Arts 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.jeremysambuca.nyc/blog/2015/1/20/makerspaces-industrial-arts-20
Sitka School District Statements. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.sitkaschools.org/Page/2557