Deeper Learning in the Southwood Makerspace

Over the course of the school year, the Southwood Deeper Learning team has launched a Makerspace for the school. Fundamentally, this place is an opportunity for deeper learning for our students.

The students come to the Makerspace ready to rise to a challenge. Their responses to the challenge cross the curriculum. A makerspace challenge involves a process that includes questioning, designing, perfecting, sharing, and reflecting. During this process, you would expect to see the students displaying the important characteristics of Our Kid.

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Consider one example. At the beginning of February, the grade 4 students were asked to design a carriage to be pulled behind a Sphero to transport a small stuffed toy approximately 3 meters in a straight line. The students demonstrated collaboration, communication, character, and most of all, creativity as they worked with their partners to draft the design that they thought would best answer the challenge.

As the students constructed, tested, and perfected their designs, the learning and critical thinking was clearly demonstrated in the modifications they made as their ideas proved partially successful or completely unsuccessful.

Makerspace projects provide a tremendous opportunity to teach about character. This is as much a part of the challenge as the actual project. The students have a chance to show their determination. What can they do when a design glitch is causing frustration? What can you do so that all the good ideas from your team are included? What if you are having a difficult time working with members of your team? The responses to these real challenges connect to lessons in patience, perseverance, and empathy.

As the grade 4’s concluded their project, the real deeper learning took place. The students had an opportunity to explain their projects to visiting trustees and to answer their questions. This provoked thinking about their designs as they respond to questions asked from an outsider’s perspective. As well, the concluding reflection after they have demonstrated their creations got them thinking about successes they accomplished and why they worked so well, and glitches that they would have changed or would do differently next time.

The Southwood Makerspace is a novel learning environment. It compels engagement because the students have a chance to work with materials that may not typically be found in the classroom. They are anxious to get hands-on with materials like cardboard, Lego, wood, craft supplies, plastics, basic tools, and more. The students are also able to demonstrate their learning with engaging technology. From a green screen studio, to dedicated iPads, to the plug and play MakeyMakey, to building circuits with LittleBits, the students have a number of captivating technologies to explore and discover with.

The Southwood Makerspace started within teachers’ comfort zones as a sort of “craft project” room where students would come and simply follow the steps of a procedure towards a common final product. Engaging, yes, but it would not facilitate true deeper learning. Now, the makerspace is starting to live up to its potential as a place of inquiry learning.


 

The above article is published in the March Edition of Learning Matters.

Author: Bret Johnson, Southwood School

in: Other