I spent the afternoon today over at the Athol Community Elementary School learning more about their STEM/makerspace. After meeting the principal, Mike Leander at #edcampNQ a few weeks back, I contacted him and took him up on his invitation to come over and see what they are doing. The ACES school is a new school with about 600 elementary age students. Mike and his team took one of the proposed art rooms and turned it into a STEM/makerspace. One of the coolest things about this- every class is scheduled to come up for 30 minutes- every day! I watched Kindergartners, First and Second graders do some great work.
One of the district technicians, Christopher Tamulevich, has created an amazing space in Minetest for the students to build upon. Minetest is like minecraft, but it is open source and it is free and very customizable.
These are grade 1 and 2 students working in Minetest.
A couple videos to help you familiarize yourself with minetest.
One thing I was pretty amazed by was the use of Tinkercad by 1st graders to create, design and ultimately 3D print their artifacts. The little red robot pictured below was created by a first grade girl! Check out Tinkercad here.
I also watched first graders navigate through a maze, using sphero robots. They were very adept at using these little robots! Sphero can be used by grade 1 to navigate a maze or by middle school students on a mission to Mars! Check out the chariot challenge below!
The other station in the STEM room was an Osmo station. Some of our first graders are familiar with Osmo because the Helping Hearts funded a set for one of the classrooms. We have also tried a few out in OT as well. Osmo is another hands-on tech product, combining the screen with a hands-on experience. I watched Kindergartners use Osmo Tangrams and the first and second graders use Osmo Coding. The level of engagement, the looks on the students faces, tell the story. These young students love the work they are doing and are ready to come back for more!
We can do this at our elementary school. It would be an excellent use of the "old lab". It would be a great way to infuse more STEM/STEAM into the curriculum. One other thing of note and I have seen this in other makerspaces... students leave their academic labels at the door. No ASD, no ADHD, no math genius, etc... This sort of space can really help level the playing field for many students who have difficulty accessing the typical curricular materials. This can be done at any level- elementary, middle or high school and all of our students and teachers could benefit.
Kudos to Mike Leander, Chris Tamulevich and the students and teachers at Athol Community Elementary School. You are pioneering some great ideas in your school! Thanks for allowing me to visit.