Fenn has Many Makers in its Midst
One of the joys of Fenn is that there are as many different interests as there are boys. A Makerspace at Fenn is going to allow those with an interest in technology, engineering, and creativity to have more opportunities to explore, tinker, and develop their ideas in these areas. We have spent time in the last year exploring how to engage boys with these interests through a variety of after school and activity offerings. Ms. MacLellan and I have collaborated on all of it and have found that a lot of boys at Fenn are clamoring for more. Some examples are:
- making an electronic piano from bananas and a Makey Makey kit
- simulating a prosthetic arm using cardboard, string, and straws
- using conductive play dough to design electric “squishy” circuits
- writing software using MITs design and visual program language, processing
- First Lego League’s robotic and engineering challenges
- purchasing a 3Doodler for boys to use in their free time
- building an eggbot for artistically decorating eggs
- planning the annual hour of code
The idea behind a Makerspace is to allow boys to explore in an environment where they can use a variety of tools to construct their own knowledge through a process of exploration, prototyping, digital fabrication, and robotics. It is a place that encourages brainstorming, innovation, collaboration, and inquiry. There is traditionally no set curriculum for a Makerspace as people come with an idea in mind of what they want to make. At Fenn we plan to offer a new Makerspace for use in four different ways:
- I.D.E.A. Projects: Individual students or small groups will draft proposals for a Makerspace project. The proposal will contain a description of their project, their proposed schedule for working on it in free time, and resources required. They will review their proposal to their advisor, parents, and a faculty volunteer mentor who will review the proposal and help guide them in their project. I.D.E.A. stands for Imagine, Design, Engineer, and Accomplish. The culmination of an IDEA project will be to demonstrate their finished product at a showcase event.
- Afterschool: A variety of offerings will take place after school, teaching students how to use the hardware, software, and equipment in the Makerspace
- Upper School Activity Block: Engineering challenges which can be completed in one activity block will be available to those wanting to try out the Makerspace.
- In class: Science teachers will incorporate the tools available in the Makerspace into their curriculum when the opportunity arises. For example, in the sixth grade curriculum students learn about how animals adapt to their habitat. A project they do is to take a bird from one habitat, e.g. an Egret in wetlands, and move them to a different habitat, e.g. tundra, and “redesign” the bird to survive in its new environment. This year the students will have the chance to design how their bird looks in an online 3D simulator and use the 3D Printer to print a scale model of their fantastical creature.
To begin, the initial Makerspace area will be a small countertop and cabinet area in the front of Ms. MacLellan’s Science classroom. As supervision is important with the sort of fabrication equipment we plan to have, we felt it important to begin in a room that has a teacher’s constant presence.
The library will be supporting the Makerspace in a number of ways. Engineering challenges are available in the library for recess, before-school, and free time. The library also has a collection of resources for programming, Engineering, Legos as well as research tools, databases, computers, printers, iPads, and a subscription to Make Magazine...not to mention a fabulous new space that is conducive to group projects and collaboration. We librarians will serve as mentors for boys who want to try their hand at I.D.E.A. projects, and we will be a resource for teachers who want to work on adapting their curriculum to take advantage of the opportunities available to their students in the Makerspace. We are excited to see what great innovations the boys come up with in the months to come.
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