Makerspaces: Hands-on STEM labs help bring imagination to life  

Makerspaces: Hands-on STEM labs help bring imagination to life  

STEM schools in Ohio

To help kids prepare for the jobs of the future, more and more schools are thinking outside of the traditional classroom and are finding hands-on, engaging ways to help students learn through an innovative area called a makerspace.

A makerspace, also called a design lab, fabrication lab or idea lab, is an area within the school that is shared by all classrooms and grade levels, similar to a library or an art room.  These labs are outfitted with the latest software programs and tools to teach skills in the areas of science, technology, design, art and engineering.

Here’s a peek inside a few makerspaces at schools around Northeast Ohio.

Digital Fabrication
In Hathaway Brown’s IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Art) lab, you’ll find Early Childhood through Upper School students using everything from the latest in digital fabrication equipment such as laser cutters, 3D printers and a desktop milling machine, to simplistic supplies like cardboard and chenille stems. The IDEA Lab at HB gives girls at all grade levels the chance to be creative, and the satisfaction of designing, creating, and building something themselves.

The sixth-grade girls currently are making simple machines: levers, pulleys and inclined planes that will change the direction or magnitude of force.

A student draws in the air with a 3D pen. (Submitted by Lakewood City Schools)

Creative Areas
The Lakewood High School Ranger Hub Makerspace is designed as an open concept space that promotes creativity and facilitates student cross-over between work areas. The walls are painted with dry erase paint so that students can express their ideas and concepts freely.

Projects that can and have been created in the Ranger Hub span all subjects and include stop motion videos to summarize literature and explain simple processes such as enzyme-substrate reactions and DNA replication; construction of geometric models; creation of “public service announcement” videos, brochures, buttons and stickers to promote awareness of student council initiatives; mural paintings and multimedia art projects; coding and computer programming; alternative energy models; creation of complex structures with 3D printing; laser cut stencils; sewing and textile work, and more.

Design by Machine
The 8,000 square feet of maker space on Hawken’s campuses provide the resources for students to explore and implement creative ideas in the fields of design, engineering, arts and science. Classes held in the Upper School Fab Lab include design fundamentals, which explores the fundamentals of art and design through a variety of digital machines, mixed media, material exploration, and computer design software. The prototyping and design class introduces students to the digital fabrication equipment, which students use to generate their own independent project. Each student designs and prototypes a project that aligns with a particular area of interest: product design, furniture design, electrical engineering, robotics, coding or programming.

The new Goldberg Family Innovation Lab at the Lyndhurst campus, opened in November 2018, provides students from preschool through grade 8 with 3,600 square feet of space to design, imagine, build and tinker, enabling younger students to harness and channel their natural creativity and curiosity as they build confidence in their ability to identify and create solutions to problems.

Kerstin, a fourth-grader, works on an art project to go along with her book report (Submitted by Willoughby-Eastlake Schools)

Media Hubs
At Royalview Elementary and several schools in the district, libraries are being transformed into 21st century media hubs. The creation of makerspaces allows students to improve their competency in areas such as computer science, digital literacy and problem-solving. At Royalview, the students will soon be able to participate in global community distance learning and virtual field trips for open-ended learning.

In Willoughby-Eastlake makerspaces, students are able to participate in the process as well as the product. They are able to learn that failures are an important part of the learning process.

“Our staff realizes that not all learning takes place in a traditional classroom,” says Kim Cantwell, Royalview Elementary principal. “We understand that for our students to grow academically, we need to help them develop skills such as collaboration, creativity and communication. In the Makerspace Hub at Royalview, students will have the ability to explore, build, create and learn using problem-solving skills. They are engaging in self-directed, real-world learning opportunities while using a variety of media.”

A student works on a Stop Motion Video project. (Submitted by Medina City Schools)

Build! Build! Build!
Medina City Schools opened two makerspaces in its schools this year, one at Claggett Middle School and one at Garfield Elementary School.

Students can create in lots of different ways in the makerspace.  Its products can be very low-tech such as Lego creations, building bridges with popsicle sticks, or creating cities out of blocks.  Students also can learn using different technological tools such as stop motion video, creating movies with a green screen, robotics, and using the 3D printer to create designs. There also are opportunities to learn coding and circuitry.  

Student choice is important in these spaces so that they are learning at their own pace and toward their own interests. The idea is that kids can go to explore, problem-solve and learn important skills such as creativity, teamwork and perseverance.  

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