“Coming Soon …..Makerspace: A Place to Invent, Create, Collaborate, and Construct” states the poster outside both our former small computer lab, as well as our small storage room in the main lobby. Gilman’s lower school teachers are starting to plan for a design lab space to use with our eager boys. The importance of teaching design based thinking is appearing in educational journals, parenting magazines, school conferences, teacher workshops, and TED talks. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post which made the connection between design thinking and empathy. The idea is to teach students to recognize a problem, seek solutions through design prototypes, and create change- “bias toward action”. The difficulty for schools is finding where to include this worthy notion in an already packed curriculum. Some schools offer before and after clubs where students may come in and tinker. Other schools have specific “problems” to solve and work in time with students when they are free. While many use their labs as a resource in partnership with the science, technology, and core subjects curriculum already in place.
Here in the lower school we are toying with several ideas and plan to allow them to evolve over the next year. One idea is to make more resources available to our faculty. They will be able to pull from the design lab supplies for a classroom project or bring the boys to a stimulating space to problem solve with the library and large computer lab close at hand. We would love to see some of the most interested boys have time to tinker on their own projects during a before school drop-in or an after school club. Finally, we are finding some teachers who feel it naturally fits into their curriculum- science and computer class. Those teachers are looking at specific class projects that include simple circuitry, coding, or robotic engineering.
School-wide the notion of a makerspace is taking place as well. Cross- divisional meetings have been taking place where the intent is to start a dialogue about how to build skills and interest in a sequential way. While makerspaces will look differently in each division, the boys will drive the “curriculum” as they naturally lead us down pathways of exploring and learning.
Parents have been enthusiastic in the early “polling” taking place around the lower school. We know how generous and valuable our parent constituent is and plan to ask for a variety of “thow-aways” before the end of the year! If you are still a bit vague about the maker-movement, here are some ideas to get you in the know!
Below is a link to an article which illustrates how several young inventors use materials to create wonderful things.
For the more adventurous there is a Makerfaire ( a gathering of makers and future makers which was the very early beginnings of the movement to spread design based thinking) in D.C. on June 18-19. I attended the Silver Spring Makerfaire earlier in the year and was amazed at the ideas and creative energy from both children and adults!
For those who would like to delve into some reading about makerspaces, I recently read Invent to Learn by Silvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager. Inspired by their last chapter, I signed up to attend their workshop in Boston this July. I will have an opportunity to problem-solve, invent, and create with fellow educators led by MIT design school engineers. We will even take a tour of the MIT design lab as part of the workshop, “Constructing Modern Knowledge”.
Another popular book about makerspace is Worlds of Learning: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School by Laura Fleming. She is an elementary school librarian who creatively transformed some of the library’s learning space into a place for creating. In her book, Laura talks about the philosophy of John Dewey, “the father of progressive education”. He promoted student-driven education and the use of “tools” in the hands of students. She goes on to say that the current Maker Movement in schools “is a determined attempt to promote learning-through-doing in an open, social, and peer-led environment.” I love that idea! Think of the inventions we take for granted that started in garages (Apple computers) or barns (Wright brother’s planes), and think of the possibilities when our young inventors are given time and space to explore ideas!
Parents, look for more to come about our school makerspace, and just a heads-up, start saving those items that may possibly be “upcycled” into new creations!
I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.
- If you are in Kindergarten- Did you enjoy the student-led conference with your parents last week? What do you wish you had added to the conversation?
- If you are in Pre-First- What are you learning about eggs in science class?
- If you are in First Grade- How are you coming in your preparations for Pioneer Day? What details are you adding to your pioneer family story?
- If you are in Second Grade- What was it like to attend an immigration ceremony last week? What projects are you working on in preparation for Immigration Day?
- If you are in Third Grade- Did you enjoy your recent trip to Harper’s Ferry? What are you learning in social studies about Lewis and Clark that relates to the field trip?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- How was the field trip to the Native American museum in DC? What did you learn about the Inca culture from the exhibit?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- How was your field trip to Tersiguels? Did you order in French? How did it feel to share such an elegant meal with your friends and teachers?