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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.
Ms. Sarah Cuje
Follow along on Ms. Cuje's journey towards creating and implementing a "STEM Lab" and "Maker Space" for grades K-5.