If you enter the Olympic Elementary library, you might not be expecting the highly creative, constructive and not-so-quiet environment you’ll find when the normally hushed space is transformed into a haven for energetic learning.
That’s because of the Makerspace movement, which is being incorporated into schools around our state that allows students to turn knowledge into action in a creative learning environment.
“The Makerspace concept is different than having students do this work in their classroom, said teacher Nicole Ames. “Makerspace is about students doing active research and being creative. It’s about giving them time to tinker, create, talk together, do art, coding, robotics, and more.”
Ames says the library is the perfect place for this to happen because they can step away from their desks, work in teams and be creative. During Makerspace activities, students have created towers and structures with straws and connectors, they have used spirographs to design a myriad of geometric shapes and she plans to have students work with cardboard creations, code with microbits, and complete a variety of stem challenges.
In October, Ames introduced a set of miniature robots, called Ozobots, to students. She asked students to think of robots they’ve seen and what they might be used for. “To clean the floor! To wash your car!” students shared. Ames then let students practice basic introductory coding. “Code is robot language,” Ames told students. “Everything you ask a robot to do has to be through robot language and that is code. You can’t just say, ‘hey robot, clean the floor’.”
Ames talked to students about the future job market, the demand for employees trained in programming, and the importance of math and science.
Students immediately took to the robots, beginning by coding the robots to follow a simple path on a piece of paper, depicted by a black line. They quickly graduated to more complex commands, “stop”, “go”, “spin around”, “go faster”. In future lessons they will be doing more advanced coding.
Ames says that her plan is to lead a challenge one week and then have students come up with their own amazing creations the next.
Ames received a grant to support the purchase of the Ozobots and hopes to pursue future grant opportunities to further these types of learning activities.
At R.E. Bennett and Cascade elementary schools, teacher Michele Cox has introduced the Makerspace concept to students to pair with learning targets. Students expand on what they’ve learned by creating with Play-Doh and Legos, illustrating stories they are reading. Students depict the main characters, setting, or a detail they would like to add to the story, then work with a partner to share their work. Cox says she hopes to add Strawbees (bendable colorful sticks) to the list of Makerspace activities soon.