What an eventful year it has been! Our makerspace opened for student and staff use in September 2015, and I am so pleased with the creative ways our instructors have used the space and the materials available. Speaking of materials and maker tools, we have had many more additions to our collection including five 3D pens, four Raspberry Pi's, four maKey-maKey kits, a 3D scanner, and an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer! More importantly, instructors continue to discover new ways to connect and utilize the space and materials to their curriculum and engage in meaningful PBL (project-based learning) through makerspace principles. As much as I wish this had happened, the makerspace didn't just magically appear! It took lots of planning, dialogue, creativity, observation, and hard work to make our makerspace a reality.
Beginning in Fall 2014, conversations began between Valley Academy's leadership and stakeholders to open a makerspace on campus that would suit the needs of their hands-on, project-based learning practices and promote further exploration of their career pathways. To raise funds and awareness, a screening of the 2014 documentary "If You Build It" was planned for community members and stakeholders at the Lexington Civic Center, complete with project exhibitions by Valley Academy students and a Q&A session with students from the film. The event helped give much-needed insight to the Davidson County community on how project-based learning environments like Valley Academy are different from traditional classrooms, and are a more meaningful and beneficial way for students to learn.
Also in Fall 2014, a group of six instructional staff visited the Fablocker Hackerspace in Winston Salem, and other support staff and board members visited Flywheel Coworking Space and the Forge makerspace in Greensboro to gather ideas and expertise.
In Spring 2015, administrators and YVRCA board members were invited to the UNC Greensboro SELF-Design Studio to learn more about what a makerspace is and how it can benefit our student body. Visitors were able to observe and tinker with popular makerspace tools such as littleBits, maKey-maKey kits, 3D printers, and circuit boards.
Several Kobalt tools, cabinets, and tables were purchased with NC Education and Workforce and Innovation Funds along with a littleBits 'One of Everything' kit, dremel tools, glue guns, and other makerspace necessities. Drop-cord electrical outlets were installed from the ceiling for easier access, and donations were made by stakeholders and community members.
Instructional Staff Training
We returned to the UNC Greensboro SELF-Design Studio for 2015/16 staff makerspace training. During the five-hour training, staff were able to program their voices into an interactive story-mural using maKey-maKey kits and Scratch code, build unique creations using littleBits and mixed media, and use copper tape and LED chibi lights to create light-up name tags.
Our First-Year Makerspace Projects!
Several projects took place within the walls of the makerspace, and some projects only required makerspace materials for use in their own classrooms. As they planned, instructors learned that utilizing the makerspace does not necessarily have to only take place at the conclusion of a project, when the final product is being made - The makerspace can be used at any stage of the PBL cycle. One exemplar project was completed by Samantha Murchison's Math I class. Her unit plans demonstrate a well-thought-out project that combines service learning, technology, hands-on makerspace usage, and real-world math problems. Other projects that utilized makerspace tools or resources during the 2015/2016 school year are listed below:
Mrs. Crews - Geometric Comic Con
Math 2 students created comic strips and subsequent 'fan buttons' that involved geometric shapes and humor!
Mr. McDade - Demonstrating Cell Systems using littleBits
Check out this video that captures sophomores being introduced to littleBits, and this video of students' final product that metaphorically demonstrates cell systems.
Is a former blended learning coach and current Academic Coach for Graham Middle School. She specializes in the development of both online and face-to-face learning environments in a wide range of capacities, Project-Based Learning, and Service Learning.