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Thinking Creative Spaces

March 18, 2016

Trip to South Portland

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The Dyer School entrance

I’ve been on a quest lately to find STEAM types of teaching and learning in Maine. The responses to my “call” have been wide and varied. Recently I traveled to South Portland, specifically to the beautiful and welcoming Dyer Elementary School where the Library Media Integrator, Megan Blakemore is at home (and very excited) in the Maker Space. I’ve read about Maker Spaces and even a book about the concept but they don’t compare with the engagement of student learning that I observed. The school has 250 students, grades K-5.

The space is set up in stations where students are naturally challenging themselves to creatively problem solve through a variety of avenues. The teacher is the guide on the side, allowing the students to own their learning and learn from each other. Getting messy is part of the learning. The room looks similar to an art room with boxes of colorful parts, wooden pieces, and stuff stacked in corners standing ready when needed. Principal Elizabeth Fowler explained how the school is addressing the developmental needs in the student-centered environment and leveraging the maker space as part of that learning tool. The ideas extend into the classrooms and in some cases becoming woven into curriculum content. It is a philosophical shift that includes process versus product and failing forward; these take shape slowly.

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PBS The Design Process

In the beginning 5th grade students were asked what they wanted the learning space to look like and include. They made drawings labeling their ideas. Many of them have been incorporated into the space, like an area with legos (lots of them in all colors) in the Fab Lab area. They are using the PBS Design Process; Identify Problem, Brainstorm, Design – Build, Redesign, Test & Evaluate – Share Solution as the overarching concept in the Maker Space. I visited during Tinker Time where students have choices of Challenges.

The greater community members are invited in as Visitor Makers; sharing their knowledge in multiple ways. A group of students approached the principal wanting to be Visitor Makers and put their idea in writing to be considered. The kids are really beginning to own the space and idea. Learning buddies between grade levels encourages the idea that we are all learners and teachers.

Plans are underway for a Creation Station which is a Maker Space on wheels so when the space is not available teachers can still have access to the materials including 2 carts of iPad minis. Megan has collaborated with teachers to connect their learning through literacy; reading, writing, and making books.

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Megan Blakemore

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Principal Elizabeth Fowler plays an integral role in the Maker Space

Dyer School is filled with permanent and temporary student artwork in the halls.

Dyer School is filled with permanent and temporary student artwork in the halls.

I want to visit again when the art teacher, Margaret Burman, will be melting down scraps of crayons with 5th graders to make into hearts to sell and raise money for a foundation that is making 3D printing hands http://www.limitlesschildinternational.org. If you have a Maker Space or something similar in your school please let me know, I’d love to visit others.

Thank you Megan for inviting me! If you have any questions about the Maker Space at Dyer School please contact Megan at megan.frazer@gmail.com.

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