South Middle School in Morgantown began developing and implementing its Makerspace in 2015. Located near the art and technology education classrooms, teachers are able to take their students to present them with a hands-on challenge that often connects STEAM skills with the core curriculum. The projects give students a tactile expression to demonstrate understanding of a skill or concept.
Our Makerspace provides kits such as Makey Makey and Makeblock robots to help students understand computer circuits and programming. The Makey Makey can be used to create a piano or drum set out of play dough or vegetables. Students can also make learning components interactive and create learning stations that light up or play music. It helps teach the skills of programming and circuit interface. The Makeblock robot can be programmed using Scratch for skills such as line following and obstacle avoidance tasks. These devices give students an introduction to the skills it takes for the occupation of a programmer or robotics.
For example, Mrs. Rodeheaver's English class designed and constructed paper quilts from the novel The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi. Each of the quilt blocks had a designated purpose to show understanding and application of the novel. Quilt blocks included a summary, timeline, vocabulary, recommendation of the reading, and song lyrics that reflected themes of the book. The Makerspace gave the students materials to construct their quilts, room to spread out, and tools to create their masterworks. Other classes have incorporated the Makerspace into their studies as well.
Mrs. Gacek, HOTS teacher, has implemented the Makerspace to help challenge students. "The students in HOTS compete in a competition called Academic Games with other middle schools in the county. One way we've utilized the Makerspace is to have the students create their own board games to help them prepare for the trivia section called Mr. Presidents. Some have created their own unique games, and others have put a spin on popular board games they enjoy. All of the questions they answer are related to U.S. presidents. They have come up with their own designs and themes that relate to presidents too. Most of my students prefer math and reading over history, so the Makerspace helps to integrate multiple content areas into one task. When they are able to design and build, students have multiple ways to actively participate in class."
Library Skills teacher Mrs. Blosser has used the Makerspace for students to build stop-motion animation settings for book trailers. The trailers are "attached" to books using the Aurasma App. Students had to plan which scene from the book to use, construct a set and create a short 2 minute video with the purpose of attracting readers. Other projects in the library include designing, building, and installing paper circuits to light up a book promotion posters or greeting cards, and researching and designing paper coasters and marble runs.
The Makerspace at South Middle School has provided the students unique opportunities to show understanding with tactile skills. It also helps students to see how school subjects blend together for tasks. It has challenged the faculty to implement projects that are low cost and help repurpose disposable items. Students move from concluding that tasks are "impossible" to an attitude of "what's possible?"