A new Makerspace at Bolivar High School is giving students the opportunity to extend their learning beyond the classroom.
Students participating in Genius Hour last year and those who served as library workers helped plan and create the Makerspace, which is located in a room connected to the school library.
Since the Makerspace opened a little more than a month ago, students have been able to create circuits to allow tomatoes to control a Pacman game, robots made out of books and other recycled material, art projects, and more.
“It’s just really fun to do all this stuff,” said Sarah Skinner, “just to have the chance to work with all the stuff. You can work during the school day, and you have access to it.”
Ethan Conley has been visiting the Makerspace since it opened, and he is currently working on a robot body to propel the space’s mascot, Bingo the Cactus.
“If I’m really stressed out, I can come in here and decompress halfway through the day, and then I’m reset for the second half; instead of being brain dead for your afternoon classes, you feel refreshed,” Conley said.
All students have the opportunity to visit the space. Students can visit during their lunch periods, class time with a teacher’s permission, Liberator Time or a free block.
“I feel like once the Makerspace picks up and those kids that have a lot of energy in class, they can come in here and put their energy to use and then be able to go back to class and focus,” said Abbi Ashlock.
Teachers are also able to schedule the Makerspace for use by their classes.
Wooderson said a class from Bolivar Intermediate School will join some BHS students in the Makerspace in a couple of weeks to collaborate on a project.
“I’m excited to see what comes out of that,” Wooderson said of the collaboration. “This is an extension of what (the teacher) is already doing in the classroom.”
Wooderson said having the hands-on experience in the Makerspace allows students to learn more about what they are studying inside the classroom.
“Students naturally, at any age, do really well with learning by doing,” Wooderson said. “That hands-on approach is a great way to build cognitive skills. Once they get to high school, it’s a little bit more difficult to learn by doing in some of their classes ... this is just another avenue to extend the classroom. Whatever project they’re working on, this is an extension of their learning, but then it’s also completely freely creative.”
When students enter the Makerspace, they are free to create anything they want using different stations containing Legos, circuits, art supplies, computers and more, whether it is for a class project or they just want to learn something new.
“There are no limits in here,” Wooderson said. “We’re not saying here’s what you have to create. We might put up suggestions about architectural design with Legos, but other than that it’s pretty well student directed. We want to keep it that way, too.”
Francie Hubbert said the Makerspace breeds ingenuity. “With the society we live in pushing so hard for technology, in 15 years, jobs that aren’t even created yet will be the number one jobs,” she said. “Living in the Midwest, we are a couple of years behind the trend in technology; this gives our students here a fair advantage to get a jump on tomorrow and jobs of tomorrow.”
Coding and writing computer programming is one of Hubbert’s dreams for what she would like to learn using the Makerspace. Ashlock said she would like to learn more about mixing music for the school’s dance team.
Wooderson said bringing the Makerspace to the library and changing some other elements of the space, including bringing more seating to the library, have helped make it a learning commons.
“We are definitely well on our way to being a fully-integrated learning commons,” she said. “It’s not just about the books anymore, although the books play a very important role still. We’ve seen how students have a love for literacy and still want to physically hold a book in their hand versus a digital copy.”
Annie Roberts and other students agreed the Makerspace felt like a home away from home.
“It’s like a second home,” she said.
Kennadie Long calling the Makerspace a great place to de-stress.
Needs and dreams
The Makerspace relies heavily on donations from the community to continue offering projects for students.
Some of the items needed or desired include a 3-D printer, craft and art supplies, small household appliances, computers, any items that can be reused or repurposed, tools, Legos, a green screen, a music mixing station, and any small video recording equipment.
“The space is based off donation,” Wooderson said. “I set a small budget to get us started with some of the circuits and things, but for the most part everything in here is strictly from donation.”
Wooderson said community members are welcome to visit the Makerspace and learn more about the program.
For more information, call her at 326-5228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.