Creative MakerSpaces planned for Elkin City Schools

Elkin Elementary School Principal Pam Colbert passed around a yellow plastic dinosaur skull to Elkin City Schools Board of Education members at their September meeting Monday night.

That’s the kind of thing students will be able to make with the 3D printers to be set up in MakerSpaces planned for the elementary, middle and high school, she told them. Funded by grant money as part of the school system’s STEAM program, Colbert said the school’s 3D printers will start out using plastic filament even though they also will be capable of making items from wood, metal and clay filaments.

The schools will start out with three colors, she said, probably yellow, blue and red.

Colbert said the 3D printers are capable of creating intricate designs such as a display of the inner ear and a chess set, one piece of which had a staircase inside it. “I’ve found it to be so fascinating,” she said.

The MakerSpaces will be set up in empty classrooms at the elementary and middle school and a section of the media center at the high school. Also planned for the MakerSpaces, which Colbert said will be designed to inspire creativity and ingenuity, are instructions on using age-appropriate tools.

Kindergarten students, for example, might learn to use glue, wrenches, screwdrivers and possibly hammers, she said, while older students will receive instruction on using the 3D printers as well as handsaws, circuit kits and robotic nano bugs.

In a newsletter sent out to parents, Colbert asked for donations of craft materials and throwaway items for students to use in the MakerSpaces. These could include rubber bands, sticks and scraps of wood, bolts, screws, wire, paper towel and toilet paper tubes, plastic lids, drink caps and cardboard.

She also has talked to local business owners about donating items, which will be used in creative ventures.

Colbert said she has seen students strip the plastic coating off wire scraps, for example, to create sculptures. “They’ll be creating and making things in that space with a variety of materials,” she said. “It’s really student-driven because you’re encouraging them to be imaginative and creative while working collaboratively with their classmates.

“We’ve actually started using some of the materials that we’ve gathered already with some projects we have going on.” Colbert said fifth-graders, for example, are using some of them in creating visuals of the human digestive system.

Sphero balls also ordered with grant money, which help students learn to program and code, already have arrived, she said, “and our students will begin working with those next week.”

With the 3D printers and other equipment and technology to be available in the MakerSpaces, Colbert said the possibilities are endless. Once they are set up at the end of the year, staff will be trained on how to use them first so they’ll be able to teach and assist students.

In addition to schools, MakerSpaces are being set up in businesses and community-type centers across the nation, she said, so “adults and children can go in and tinker and make things and use their ingenuity and try to bring back to the United States what we used to be known for. They’re very popular.”

Anyone who wishes to donate items for the MakerSpaces can drop them by all three schools.

Contact Kathy Chaffin at 336-258-4058.

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