Schools across America are recognizing the need to establish a “makerspace,” a large workshop space where students and teachers work collaboratively, sharing resources and knowledge and making things out of everyday materials with the help of technology and a lot of imagination.
A makerspace encourages a marriage of the arts with the sciences, fostering collaborative efforts among STEAM students, those interested in science, technology, engineering, art and math. They are finding the makerspace a playground for their imaginations and a well-tooled workshop to see their ideas come to fruition.
Students conceive of an idea, conduct research, take suggestions from their classmates and teachers, dip into the bins of art supplies, and use the available technology such as laser cutters, laminating machines and 3-D printers to produce their creations.
At The Harvey School in Katonah, N.Y, an independent college preparatory school for grades 6-12, the makerspace is a vibrant center of learning and creating. The 3-D printer is only one of many high and low tech tools available for students' creative problem-solving and product development. The space also features Arduinos, Raspberry Pi's, traditional woodworking and crafting materials, and countless electronic components. Susan Harris, the director of educational technology who was instrumental in establishing the Harvey’s makerspace, says, “Making is about asking the question ‘What would happen if....?’ and then following it to its conclusion.”
Harvey middle school students are working on an ambitious project -- a model train that will chug along tracks through a replicated miniature Harvey campus. Their math teacher, with his experience in designing train models and building to scale, guides the class in creating the appropriate size of the models. The science teacher works with the students on designing the buildings that will appear along the train track route through the campus. Using the photographs taken of the particular buildings, the students then created their 3-D designs using a website called Tinkercad.com .
“It is our hope that the train set will be on display this spring somewhere on campus for all to see,” said science teacher Marcie Hajem.
When three upper school students in Harris’s Diglit class found a 3-D model for a dragon's head online, they envisioned making a dragon head with light and sound. With the help of Technology Director John Wahlers and a student with knowledge of basic circuitry and coding, the three are adding working LED lights and a mini speaker to the dragon’s head.
Harris says the makerspace provides students with many creative opportunities. One student, eighth- grader Sebastian Wallach of Pound Ridge, even designed and created a ukulele, which he learned to play and used to entertain his classmates.
When the year concludes in June, the makerspace will have produced a model train set; robots; a fire-breathing, mouth-roaring dragon head and many other projects first envisioned and then created by a group of students who were eager to answer, “What would happen if…?”
Families exploring educational options for September 2015 or 2016 enrollment can experience the makerspace firsthand at The Harvey School's Drop-In Day on Wednesday, Jan. 28, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.