The maker movement is in full swing in the Pittsburgh region and Sewickley Academy is proud to be a part of this movement that is helping to incorporate 21st century skills into the core and elective curricula. So what is a makerspace, and why do we value this philosophy?
A makerspace can look very different depending on where you look, but the main components are space, tools, and materials to make things. Sewickley Academy’s Makerspace consists of three separate rooms with three different intents. The first is the Ideas Room, an ideation space used for brainstorming, with whiteboard walls and tables and an interactive projector. Students begin their design process in this area as they plan out their projects. The second room is the Maker Room, outfitted with craft materials, hand tools, and technology tools including five 3D printers, a laser engraver, vinyl cutter, robotics components, and sewing machines. The third room is the Production Room, equipped with a professional green screen wall and state-of the-art audio and visual equipment, similar to what meteorologists use when reporting the weather and Hollywood studios use to create special effects. These
spaces bring students’ ideas to life.
So, why is making important for our students? There is a growing need for students to use technology and interpersonal skills in today’s world and job market. Employers are looking for “soft” skills, such as problem solving, cross-industry collaboration and communication, adaptability, resiliency, and creativity, which are not easily learned through traditional lecture-based lessons. We also want to prepare students to overcome challenges they may face every day. There is no blueprint for life, but rather there are continuous open-ended problems that we, as educators, want students to be able to navigate through and find the best solutions.
The Makerspace at Sewickley Academy was designed for students in our Middle and Senior Schools, and can be reserved by students and teachers from any content area. For example, in an eighth grade history class, a group of students used the green screen to create a colonial infomercial set during that time period to persuade other colonists to live in the colony they settled in. A Grade 6 science class completed a unit on measurement and used the laser engraver to create a ruler based on a standard unit of measurement they designed. In another instance, a group of Senior School students used the 3D printers and laser engraver to create a board game for their foreign language class.
I am amazed at the ways our community is taking advantage of the Makerspace – brainstorming, designing, and creating products and projects that are expanding on the knowledge and lessons learned in our classrooms. Students are learning to take feedback to make improvements, as making is an iterative process and failure gives our students the opportunity to learn, try something new, and make it better.