By Jason Marshall
Last spring, I was offered the opportunity to be the MakerSpace Coordinator for the esteemed Manhattan Beach Unified School District. The purpose of this role was to bring MakerSpace to life at all of the elementary campuses in a consistent and significant way. For those of you who are not familiar with the MakerSpace movement in schools across the country, MakerSpace is a hands-on, student-directed learning experience, where students see themselves as inventors, builders and creators. MakerSpace allows learning new skills through trial and error, experiencing failure of an initial idea, the exploration of possible alternatives and then problem solving to improve on the idea. MakerSpace is a more accessible touchpoint for STEM, and more specifically engineering, which allows teachers to better integrate science, technology, engineering, while fostering innovation and creative arts skills.
I’m grateful that I didn’t have to start from scratch with this initiative. While serving as Principal at Pacific, Kim Linz and parent, Cathy Hobart, laid the groundwork, bringing MakerSpace to the student body during scheduled sessions at lunch. The response was overwhelming – the students couldn’t wait to get in there to try tinkering. Soon after, Gretchen Gabreski introduced MakerSpace to the rest of our elementary schools in 2016/17. Regardless, I was terrified at this “opportunity.” Becoming the “Face of MakerSpace”, more-or-less, gave me a panic attack as the new school year approached. But, things quickly turned around.
The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation granted funding to the District to hire five MakerSpace Instructional Assistants, one for each elementary site. The clouds parted, allowing the light to reappear into my life. The Fab Five have been the true “Face(s) of MakerSpace”. Because of their hard work, positive attitudes, and collaborative spirit, the MakerSpace program has taken off at all five elementary sites. The MakerSpace mindset is catching fire, and it’s exhilarating to witness.
I would be remiss to leave out praise for MBUSD’s incredible lineup of classroom teachers. They have been supportive from the get go, trusting the process and bringing their students to MakerSpace to experience the mindset on a regular basis. Many of our teachers have been in cahoots with the instructional assistants, science specialists and myself, creating projects that align with standards across content areas. It has truly been an awe-inspiring experience.
Our students have learned about sturdy structures, gravity, light and sound, simple machines, flying machines, floating vessels, and more. Students will begin to see more technology integrated into their projects for the second half of the school year. These projects will include circuits with Makey Makey (invention kit that turns everyday objects into touchpads), coding robots, stop motion animation and 3D pens, just to name a few.
I hope you now understand why I feel the way I do about the MakerSpace program and our inspiring team. And please, do yourself a favor. Spend an hour volunteering in your child’s class during MakerSpace. You won’t be disappointed.