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Since my reflection about the STEM Lab was so long, I figured I'd make the reflection about the Maker Space its own post.
Inspiration Station Logistics
Our school is all about Inspiring to Excellence so instead we called our Maker Space the "Inspiration Station". It has a nice ring to it and builds excitement! From what I hear from other staff members and from the kids, they really like it. Our Inspiration Station is a section of our Library that students can come and explore, tinker, build, take-apart, and more!
Kids are allowed to enter the building at 8:20 am. From 8:20 am until 8:35 am, students are in their homeroom unpacking, eating breakfast and getting ready for their day. Just like the students can get a pass to come to the library to check out books in the morning during homeroom, they can come to the Inspiration Station. It is my morning duty. I quickly realized, however, that by the time the students went to their classroom, got the pass, and came to the library, they did not have enough time to explore the Inspiration Station before being sent back to class at 8:35 am. What good is a Maker Space if there are no makers in it? Since my planning is first period from 8:35- 9:20am, I chose to split it. I send out a survey with possible 15 minute time slots and asked the homeroom teachers to select their preference. The teachers that responded to my survey were split, half wanted from 8:30-8:45 am and the other half wanted later 8:45-9:00 am. As a compromise, and because our librarian is not present on Thursdays and Fridays so I help with book check out during homeroom, I chose to have the following schedule:
Monday- Wednesday the Inspiration Station is available from 8:30-8:45 am
Thursday & Friday the Inspiration Station is available from 8:45-9:00 am
That means I take my planning starting at 8:20 am, and resume after duty until 9:20 am. At first, it was difficult for teachers to remember two different times but it was the best way to compromise. The Inspiration Station pass is a laminated 1/4 piece of paper that I have color coded by grade level. I have written in permanent marker on the back which homeroom it belongs to, in case it is lost. Next year, I plan on including the schedule on the back to help teachers and students remember. Currently only 3rd through 5th graders have passes. And because there are roughly 25 homerooms within those three grade levels alone, I only gave each class ONE pass. Therefore, there would not be more than 25 students at a time. It is up to the individual teacher to decide who gets to come each morning. Unfortunately, I think the teachers forget to assign the pass because on my busiest day I've only had about 15 kids. I have the students sign in when they come, on a clipboard, writing their first name, last name, and homeroom. Since I feel the Inspiration Station is not being fully utilized I plan on sending out a virtual flyer to remind the teachers to send kids down, including pictures to show what they've been missing out on. If that does not increase attendance, then I plan on awarding classrooms who do send kids down a second pass.
I also have no classes between 11:40am and 12:55 pm. Therefore, I have chosen to take my lunch from 12-12:30pm. Opening the Inspiration Station from 11:40 am- 12 pm would allow Fourth grade classes to send a student down during their lunch time. The idea would be for the chosen students to get their lunch first in line, eat, and then come down to the library to tinker. Open from 12:30- 12:50 pm would allow teachers to send Third and Fifth graders during their recess time. The ultimate goal is to allow as many students as possible an opportunity to come explore, as often as possible!
Maker Space Stations
Currently I have several stations set up in the Inspiration Station. They are flexible and can be swapped out at any time. One station that is a favorite and will be permanent is the "Take Apart Technology" station. There, students can use real tools to take apart used and/or broken electronics. Reverse engineering these electronics will allow them to see how the machines were put together and get a glimpse at what they look like on the inside. I have attached pegboard to the wall and hung the various tools. I went a step further and outlined the tools in permanent marker so that the students know where and how to put it back. It is a requirement at this station to wear safety glasses. I also have larger goggles for students who wear glasses. The electronics were donated by families, staff members, and our IT department. The key is to get the word out there! The Inspiration Station was open for parents and guardians to come check out during Open House and conferences. One thing I need to remind the students often is that they are to take apart the technology, not destroy it. I removed the hammer because many students' initial reaction is to just bang on the device until it breaks apart. The goal is to use tools in reverse; for example, use a screwdriver to unscrew the device. Once the screws are out, then they can gently remove the outer pieces and see what's inside. The kids reactions are always great when they get their first glimpse inside- very excited. I would definitely recommend having the following tools available: multiple screwdrivers- especially Phillips head type, at least one precision pack (mini screwdrivers), Allen wrench set, and pliers. I was able to get a complete tool box kit for a great price during Harbor Freight's sidewalk sale.
I interviewed at Kathleen H. Wilbur Elementary School in Bear, DE and was accepted for the position. I am thrilled to be part of the #Wilburinspired family and start in my new position as the STEM specialist.
Wilbur Elementary is in Colonial School District, where I have been employed for the past five years. Prior to this position, I have taught sixth grade Science at Gunning Bedford Middle School. Throughout my time in Colonial, I have been heavily involved in all things related to Science and Technology, including Professional Development both as an observer and presenter and a multitude of committees and leadership opportunities. I believe all of my past experiences have prepared me for the STEM position that I face today.
I have taught a wide range of abilities at the sixth grade level but I will still be in for a rude awakening when I meet my new students... who start at five years old. That being said, my journey begins with PREPARATION. To prepare, I have been "pinning" anything and everything related to elementary STEM projects and Maker Spaces, looking for insight into what to expect and what I can expect the youngsters to be able to do at each grade level in the K-5 range, and looking for inspiration for STEM projects and Maker Space activities.
After researching the past couple days, I feel very strongly that there is a difference between Science experiments and STEM projects. And while any activity that incorporates two or more of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math could be considered STEM, I even find myself thinking about projects for my STEM class and activities for the Maker Space differently. Check out the differences in my mind in the chart below:
Preparing for STEM Class
To start prepping for my STEM course, I have started by looking up the Next Generation Science Standards for K-5, specifically related to the Engineering Process. It turns out there are actually explicit standards towards engineering! #winning I also bookmarked the Science and Engineering practices. Our district follows Learning Focused Solutions (LFS) curriculum design so next I will be creating a KUD (Know-Understand-Do) chart to establish objectives and then a Student Learning Map to show an overview of the Unit Essential Question, Concepts, Lesson Essential Questions, and Vocabulary for each grade level. Lastly, I will be looking for activities that allow students to meet the objectives for my unit, without overstepping into "regular classroom" teacher's science units.
Preparing for the Maker Space
My new principal is very excited about continuing her vision for the STEM Lab and has also entrusted with me the task of designing and creating a Maker Space. To prepare for that, I have researched ideas for Maker Spaces and started exploring in different stores. First I started by reading and checking out the resources curated by Ed Sheninger. According to Sheninger (2015), a High School Principal in New Jersey who is leading the Maker Movement, there are five essential questions you should ask yourself before you beginning:
Another great resource I've stumbled across was an article by David Rath (2015) titled, "8 Design Steps for an Academic MakerSpace". In the article, Rath recounts a presentation Russ Jarowski, a technology director, from ISTE 2015 Philadelphia. In the presentation, Jarowski lists "eight steps to work through in the creation of a successful child-centered academic makerspace" (2015). While explanations are given for each step in the article, they are as follows:
Lastly, I also came across "the Maker's Manual" that is embedded below. While the Manual is definitely higher level then what I plan for my elementary space, it does provide good insight into what we would eventually hope students would be able to do, which is to innovate their own creations and even go on to sell them.
Well ladies and gentleman, that's all I have for now! Stay tuned for pictures of both spaces and how I plan to organize them! ... Also which activities I choose to implement! In addition, I plan to use this blog to document both successes and reflections of obstacles that come from implementing both a STEM Lab and a Maker Space for the first time... after all, this will be quite a journey!
Want more? Check out what I've "Pinned" so far...
Your comments are welcome! I'd love to hear from you :)
Do you have a Maker Space or implement STEM activities? Are you thinking about it? I'd love to hear your ideas!
Ms. Sarah Cuje
Follow along on Ms. Cuje's journey towards creating and implementing a "STEM Lab" and "Maker Space" for grades K-5.