Sudduth Elementary first graders Gianna Russell and Sirita Chanachai build with plastic cups in their Makerspace Friday afternoon. "We're just building something and making sure it doesn't fall down," Russell said. "I think we're building a castle." Photo by: Mary Pollitz/Dispatch Staff
West Elementary librarian Stephanie Montgomery builds a prototype Friday afternoon at The Idea Box, a Makerspace, on Main Street. Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District librarians learned ways to implement Makerspaces in their libraries and schools throughout professional development Friday.
Photo by: Mary Pollitz/Dispatch Staff
December 3, 2018 10:29:06 AM
When Samantha Furby works in her Makerspace, she's unknowingly learning life skills while she has fun.
The first grade student entered the colorful Makerspace at Sudduth Elementary School on Friday and immediately began building a cube -- one larger than her -- out of PVC pipes. When her original plan wasn't working, she didn't let herself get discouraged -- rather she learned how to problem solve.
"I'm building a cube, and it has to have six sides," Furby said. "I tried a bigger one, but that one didn't work, but I got it now."
Furby is just one of many students who use the Makerspace at Sudduth Elementary for a creative learning environment.
The Makerspace, which is a classroom stocked with building blocks, LEGOs, lightboards, craft projects and other hands-on manipulatives, branched from the activities started by Sudduth librarian Leslie Hunt.
"I just started thinking, it would be awesome to have it all in one room for everyone to utilize," Hunt said. "(The kids) love it with just being creative and it helps them with behavior issues. It is amazing (because) some of the kids ... have had difficulty doing certain things, but in here it's kind of like everyone is on the same level."
At Sudduth, classroom teachers can use a sign-up sheet to bring their students to the Makerspace for about a 40-minute block.
Hunt said though the Makerspace offers a number of "advanced" projects for children to use, most enjoy the simple aspect of building. Students focus their energy on those projects, such as unsharpened pencils to build towers or stacking empty plastic cups. She added the students tend to use their imagination more with the less advanced materials.
First grade teacher Mya Floyd said she tries to bring her class at least once a week. Not only do her students get to work creatively, but she has started to notice a difference in classroom behavior.
"It helps them analyze and work on communication," Floyd said. "The communication skills they learn here, they take that back to the classroom in academics. They've started working better together in both reading and math and are even helping each other. I love bringing them here."
Floyd added the Makerspace's learning environment gives her and her students a chance to build a stronger relationship.
"I get to sit and build with them even," she said. "We talk about things that aren't academic in here. I ask them about their family and weekend and I get to tell them about myself too."
Plan in action
Brandi Burton, Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District grants and innovative strategy specialist, has been working to create similar Makerspaces in schools throughout the district.
"Maker movement is pretty much across the nation, and we wanted to bring that to Starkville," Burton said. "The libraries are supposed to be the hub of each of the schools, so that's where we started."
Librarians from each of the SOCSD schools met Friday afternoon for professional development to continue that maker movement district-wide.
Burton said the district purchased a number of hands-on manipulatives to test the waters with children and see their interests.
Though a set plan is not in place, Burton said by the end of the school year, each school will create a "maker-area." With some school's limited space, Burton said schools may have mobile carts stocked with the same type of materials already at Sudduth.
West Elementary librarian Stephanie Montgomery has already started brainstorming creative ways to help her students at her school.
"I'm really excited about Makerspace coming into our schools," Montgomery said. "I plan on getting ourselves a large cart and having several items and choices for our students and teachers to use. I'm just real excited about the hands-on activities to help the students build their critical thinking skills."
Montgomery said she hopes to have coding toys, flexi-straws, LEGOs and other build-able items ready for teachers to "check-out."
Moving forward, Burton said she will meet with librarians in January to continue expanding on the Makerspace which started at Sudduth Elementary.
"I think it's so important for us to join this movement, so that the kids that are hands-on learners and out-of-the-box thinkers, that they have just as much of an advantage as the students that are just academic," Burton said. "We just need to make sure we have opportunities for every type of learner, and with the things that will be available in these spaces, every type of learner will be catered to in some way."
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