Hands-on learning at Waupaca Middle School
By Angie Landsverk
In Waupaca Middle School’s new Makerspace, students explore, learn and create.
The new space opened in the library on Oct. 19.
“It’s a creative area. This is a place where you go and make new things. You tinker,” said Sarah Hanneman, the middle school’s library media specialist.
Hanneman said these types of spaces are becoming popular in libraries and communities.
When she began working at the school last year and was asked if there was anything she wanted to start in the library, two things came to mind.
One was a casual reading area for the students, and the other was a Makerspace.
The purchase of new furniture resulted in that new reading area, and Hanneman said the Makerspace took thought and planning.
“We wanted a place where we could see and observe, but keep the library running as well,” she said.
Joan Holman, the middle school’s technology intergrator, describes Makerspaces as zones of self-directed learning.
“The hands-on nature of these Makerspaces, coupled with the tools and raw materials that support invention, provide the ultimate workshop for the tinkerer and the perfect educational space for individuals who learn best by doing,” she said. “They are DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent and learn.”
At the middle school, the Makerspace was established behind a new glass wall in the library. It has lots of shelving.
The space currently has hands-on materials, including construction paper, glue and craft sticks.
It has computers set for the Lego MindStorms kits already purchased by the school, and four iPads run several apps that support purchases made by the school at the end of last year, Holman said.
Those purchases include OSMO’s, Ozobots, Parrot Rolling Spider drones, Makey-Makey Boards for electric circuitry, Jumping Sumo rolling drones and Spheros, programmable balls, she said.
“We have just set up computers for the SmartMusic Application, a music composition application, and are considering bringing in sewing machines,” Holman said. “We are also going to incorporate the MakerBot 3D printer, purchased through the (Waupaca Breakfast) Rotary’s 2014 grant.”
With the school’s budget covering the space’s start-up costs, they are now seeking grants for additional equipment and supplies.
She said the goal of the school’s Makerspace is to foster a mindset that tolerates risks and failure and allows for creativity and innovation to take place through informal learning.
“We are working with the students to find areas of interest for them which in turn can spark a desire to learn and push themselves further with opportunities for hands-on work,” Holman said.
Hanneman said students figure out what they like to do when they spend time in the space.
The space is open before school starts, during lunch recess and is also available during the school day for students who are done with the work in their core classes and have no late work, she said.
“We’ve been finding the most usage at lunch recess,” Hanneman said.
During the first week the space was open, six fifth-grade students spent their lunch recess in the Makerspace.
That week, there were six different challenges for students, including making a catapult or a marble maze.
Sawyer Bohm, Joey Gullixon and Raidon Nguyen worked together on the catapult challenge, while Charlotte Dillman, Ellie Hooey and Reagan Leach worked on the marble maze.
“This is just a fun activity,” Dillman said. “It keeps us busy.”
Gullixon said making a catapult was kind of hard. After completing that challenge, they planned to start on another one the next day.
Hanneman and Holman work together to come up with ideas for the challenges in the “Creation Stations,” which are being set up on a rotating basis. Some are one-day challenges, while others are meant to take three days to accomplish.
Holman said their goal is to have the space supplied with resources and challenges for students to use in small groups, as well as for teachers to bring their whole class to the space to bring hands-on learning into their subject areas.
“In short, we are working to accomplish a love for learning through exploration,” she said.
Hanneman explained why these types of spaces are developing in libraries.
“I think the library is a lot of times the center or hub of the school,” she said. “The whole library mindset is changing – being more 21st century, being more open to more ideas and awareness.”