A New Jersey high school designed a maker space to encourage meaningful student learning.
New Milford High School students are tinkering with things like Legos, simple machines and electronic building blocks called littleBits in a new maker space in the school library. Students play in the space all day, whether it's before school, after school, during lunch or in independent periods.
Not much literature exists about maker spaces, so the school is taking a calculated risk in the name of student learning, Principal Eric Sheninger said. With the launch of the maker space this year, Sheninger hopes that it will be a catalyst for future changes in the curriculum, such as more classes in science, technology, engineering and math.
"The most gratifying aspect of this maker space for me is seeing how many students are excited to learn, to push their limits, to collaborate with their peers, and it's extending well beyond the school day," Sheninger said.
While the maker space has launched, library media specialist Laura Fleming said it will never be finished. Rather, it will change over time depending on what students are interested in.
Eventually, she hopes that teachers will bring students into the space during class time so they can collaborate on projects. And she would also like to expand the virtual space she's created so that students can have an online sandbox to play in.
Sheninger brought Fleming into the school and gave her autonomy over the budget as well as support to transform the library's media center, which needed a new vision, he said. She worked together with the technology and maintenance departments to design a place where students could explore, learn and create across different platforms.
"Our vision of learning focuses really on fostering that culture of innovation," Fleming said, "and I think that this maker space provides the foundation that the kids need to be able to thrive and flourish in that kind of culture."
Videos of students in the maker space: