Nauset Regional Middle School took a giant step into project-based learning this month with the launch of a MakerSpace in the school library.
A MakerSpace provides a hands-on, creative way to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering and tinkering. This space is dedicating to getting the kids to think creatively and to look for do-it-yourself solutions before running off to an adult to solve the problem. A MakerSpace goes beyond engineering and STEM to “create creative people”, according to NRMS science teacher Brandy Jackson.
The idea to build a MakerSpace at Nauset Middle School evolved from the highly successful Nauset Summer Science Institute held in 2014 and 2015.
How the MakerSpace works
In the Nauset MakerSpace, a student selects a “project box” whose topic interests him/her. The box contains everything the student needs to complete that particular project.
The student scans a QR code on the box with their tablet, which takes them to the lesson page for that project. If, for example, a student is working on a project about catapults, the lesson page will present some history on the significance of catapults, provide information on the physics of a catapult and then direct the student through using the materials in the project box to build his/her own catapult.
The MakerSpace in the middle school’s library includes a growing number of project boxes.
Available to all students
It’s important that the MakerSpace provide all the supplies necessary to complete projects. The school is seeking grant funds and public donations to make sure the project boxes are always stocked and ready to use.
Mrs. Jackson shared her own childhood experience, “A big reason for me to work on this is that in middle school I dreaded project based learning because my parents could not always afford to take me to get project supplies and the stores to get them were 20 miles away. So what was supposed to be a fun creative adventure was often times torture. I want every student to experience the joy of project and challenge based learning, but not in a way that makes it difficult for families that are struggling to meet daily living expenses.”
The Masonic Angel Foundation this week provided a $200 Dollar Tree gift card to purchase consumables supplies for the MakerSpace while the school ramps up its fundraising.
A big part of the MakerSpace project is to provide productive afterschool engagement for all students. Mrs. Jackson explained, “Teens really have very few options for what they can do after school unless they are involved in sports. To combat this, the school offers several clubs that meet once a week and a homework club where students can work with staff in a quiet environment. While these are wonderful programs, there are still huge numbers of students with little engagement in the afternoons.”
Since the school first began to explore the MakerSpace, they have written grants to obtain a 3D printer, soldering stations, circuitry supplies, materials to build a robotics challenge lab and donations to buy supplies for small scale Maker kits for 2-4 students at a time.
As the program matures, the Nauset MakerSpace will have a monthly theme where students participate in challenge based learning and then share their results with the community through YouTube, Channel 22 and a website that students will develop themselves.
Community support needed
The school is running a GoFundMe campaign to build up supplies for larger scale projects. The campaign goal is $7,500.
The Nauset MakerSpace also needs donations of arts and crafts materials along with old Legos and other compatible building sets to build a robotics laboratory in the school library.