“The renewed interest in making has come to be known as the maker movement—a rising interest in sharing and learning from others while working with one’s hands within interdisciplinary environments that combine a variety of tools and technologies.” -Agency by Design
The Middle and Upper School makerspaces are uniquely equipped workshops for students to explore their ideas through making, tinkering, and experimental play. Access to these spaces enables students to learn by doing and apply their knowledge from classes and other experiences, pursue personally meaningful projects, create utility objects, or build things just for fun. Designs, prototypes, and builds for problem-solving can begin with an inspiration, or it can come from learning about materials and techniques through a guided project.
With either approach, students engage in iterative training, tweaking things to see what will happen, and learning from failure—it’s all part of the process. Middle School Science Teacher and Robotics/Maker Coordinator Branson Lawrence said, “When students pull ideas from their heads then take action to prototype and build and rebuild, they cultivate a growth mindset. This mindset encourages students to believe that they can learn to do anything, striving to be the lifelong learner who says, ‘I can do that.’”
In all divisions, maker programs provide opportunities for students to create and add depth and tangibility to what they’re learning, including independent projects or enhancements to assignments in multi-disciplinary subjects. Additionally, the maker experience for faculty and staff serves as a resource for generating ideas and providing equipment or materials to strengthen the overall student experience.
Maker projects are far-reaching. For example, students build Sphero chariots and fire extinguishers in 9th and 10th grade science and 3D-print prosthetic hands while studying kinesiology, and physics students build and test projectile launchers. Crossing divisions and subject matter, 3rd grade students design and craft a board game for their U.S. Regions unit in Social Studies.
The Biggs Family Maker’s Space in the Upper School STEM building boasts many tools that help bring students’ ideas to life. With the resources there, the only limit is the imagination. The workshop has four 3D printers, a laser cutter, a CNC router, a hotwire foam cutter, wood saws, soldering irons, sewing machines, and all of the non-power tools you would find in a fully stocked garage—as well as some you wouldn’t. The unique tools have spurred our students’ creativity and ingenuity, such as creating face shields for football helmets during a pandemic.
Brian Purlee, Upper School Theater Technical Director, Maker/Robotics Coordinator, wanted community members to have the same opportunities so he opened up the maker space to faculty, staff, and students and established “Maker Mondays,” a weekly open shop time for tinkering and creating.
“This is our first time trying it,” said Purlee. “When I first started working with this project and getting the space together, I was asked to figure out how we could have a larger reach than just through the classes.”
Whether you are a novice or a craftsman, Purlee and Lawrence treat the maker spaces as a place to try something new—or just have a little fun. The desire to share the creative process and tools with others helps build a “making community” and creates a culture to learn from each other and perhaps work together toward innovative solutions for real-world problems.
Purlee added, “Our hope is that we can excite students and adults by giving them a place to make, or even just come down and put together a puzzle. We can even design and create the puzzle!”