Legos are being built on the wall. Smartphones are being used to operate Sphero balls. Electrical circuits are being connected and tested. Quilts will be sewn and raffled for charity.
Another upcoming project in the new MakerSpace classroom at Elkin Elementary School will be a hands-on way to learn the story of the “Three Little Pigs,” said Principal Pam Colbert as she provided a tour of the new space.
The MakerSpace area will be on display during an open house Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. While the classroom is in the mobile classroom building behind the school, those visiting for the open house are asked to enter through the school’s front doors.
She explained the kindergarten and first-graders will be building homes for the pigs out of consumable products like cardboard boxes and other products. The pigs will be made from plastic filament on the school’s 3D printer, and the big bad wolf will be a hairdryer with wolf ears on it. The students will get a chance to tell the story using the creativity available in the MakerSpace classroom.
The MakerSpaces at the three Elkin schools have been in the works for several months, and the first up and running is the elementary school’s space, which is manned by a teaching assistant and has been added to the “wheel” model students follow for the activities they take part in outside of their academic classrooms, such as physical education, music, and more, Colbert said.
The teachers are planning the lessons to be done in the MakerSpace and then the TA implements the lesson and monitors for discipline as well, she said.
Activities and resources in the MakerSpace classroom range from a Lego Wall, which was made using the back of a broken bookcase; a robotics table; Sphero balls, which utilize Bluetooth technology so students can program them to do actions from a smartphone; Little Bits and Cubelets, which are electrical kits; Magformers, a magnetic building set; craft items such as yard, thread, looms, hoops, a sewing machine, tongue depressors, and more; a toolbox with hammers, screwdrivers and such; Hexbugs, which are robotic bugs; a magnet marble run made from flat drip pans, foam and plastic slides mounted on magnets so the students can move them around and let the marbles run down different courses as they move them around; and the 3D printer, which was purchased through a grant written by Cynthia Altemueller, Elkin City Schools chief academic officer, Colbert said.
She said some of the students will be making quilt squares, and then the class will come together to make a quilt from them which they plan to raffle off to raise funds for a local charity, which the students will decide on. The quilt project also is an opportunity to include community, since some quilters in the area have offered to come to the school and show the students how to quilt.
The MakerSpace classroom is part of Elkin City Schools’ focus on a STEAM education, integrating science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics with hands-on problem-solving in the classroom.
“We went to a North Carolina TIES workshop, and they had a session on MakerSpace. We wanted to get started on it,” said Colbert of the NC Technology in Education Society conference.
She said Altemueller wrote a grant over the summer for the 3D printer, which uses plastic or other type filaments to “print” items such as the bracelet which had been created last week, and shelving for the room. Other items have been acquired through donations from the Parent Teacher Organization, individual parents and community members.
“We’re continuing to accept donations for the room,” said Colbert. “Our plan is to grow and create a space where they can design and create. They can learn to sew, knit, work with electronics.
“And the community members want to share their skills with the next generation,” she said, explaining a group of knitters and crocheters have offered to come to the school to help.
The school has created a MakerSpace Tree, similar to an angel tree at Christmas, it has “ornaments” hanging on it with suggested items students or others can bring to donate for use in the room.
“We are finding some kids have an aptitude for different skills,” Colbert said. “They all say they love it.
“We want to add to it as new technologies come available. And we want to add tings like power tools such as jigsaws and drills, with community members coming to show the students how to use them. We need expertise from people in the community to share what they know,” she said.
Eventually, Colbert said she’d like to see a cooking station with a stove and refrigerator added to the space.
She said so much money was invested in the MakerSpace classroom, she wanted to be sure it was used frequently, thus the decision was made to put it in the rotation of activities or electives the students participate in during the school day. Students are in the classroom from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.