By Karen Latta
Last spring, thanks to the leadership of Librarian Amanda Braziel, Maplewood applied for and won an innovation grant from Austin Ed Fund to create a centralized makerspace that is available to all students and teachers. A makerspace provides a place for hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics activities that allow students to learn through play, collaboration with peers, and exploratory problem solving. Maplewood’s MakerSpace will help students develop 21st century technology and critical thinking skills. Here is a link to more information about makerspaces and how they can be used in education.
Since Maplewood received the grant funding, Ms. Braziel and a dedicated group of teachers, staff, and parent volunteers have been busy building the MakerSpace in and around the library. Most of the grant money has already been spent to buy supplies and pay for an assistant, second grader mom Kristin Taylor, to lead class activities and purchase and organize supplies. First grader mom Staci Duhan has been instrumental in sending out communications about the MakerSpace, ordering materials, and organizing lessons. Both Staci and Kindergarten Teacher Jennifer Huffman also helped Ms. Braziel develop the grant application.
Many volunteers have donated supplies and offered to organize those supplies, design and plan lessons, move heavy objects, and gather materials. Second grader dad Nicholas Blaise Koch built the Lego wall and mobile magnet wall that you may have seen in the hallway outside the library. The MakerSpace is really coming to life, and the kids and teachers are excited! One student remarked recently, “It’s starting to look like the Thinkery in this hallway!”
All classes have been through at least two activities in the MakerSpace. In November, students made Puff Mobiles with straws, paper, tape, Lifesavers, and their own breath for power (pictured above). In December, in honor of Computer Science Week, the MakerSpace activity involved coding, programming, robotics, and sequential thinking skills. A few teachers have used the space and supplies to do additional activities with their classes. Through these activities, students practice collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and cooperation while flexing their growth mindset “muscles.”
The Maplewood MakerSpace is a work in progress. The next phase involves further transforming the hallway, AV room, and reference areas of the library into creative spaces. Ms. Braziel recently met with the district level Technology Design Coach, Nichole Aguirre, to plan and prepare lessons, including using the new BLEND system to deliver introductory lessons. The initial MakerSpace sessions were intended to introduce students and teachers to the opportunities and experiences available at Maplewood now, thanks to the initial grant funding. The future of the MakerSpace will look different for different grade levels and classrooms, based on teacher and parent volunteer engagement and need for support. Also, stay tuned for information about a Maker Evening Event during Screen Free Week the first week of May.
If you are interested in helping build and sustain the MakerSpace, contact Ms. Braziel to sign up for her MakerSpace Volunteer Google group. Right now, she is looking for volunteers to take on projects like painting the wooden frame of the mobile magnet wall and creating signage and guidelines for the Lego and magnet walls. You can also help by donating items from the Maplewood MakerSpace Amazon wish list. Contact Ms. Braziel via email at Amanda.Braziel@austinisd.org if you have questions or concerns or want to join the Google group.