Silverdale Elementary students Emery Willis (left) and Zoe Easson work on a project using Kapla blocks.

Silverdale Elementary students Emery Willis (left) and Zoe Easson work on a project using Kapla blocks.

Makerspace: A new kind of learning experience

Silverdale Elementary students enjoy a hands-on program of concepts and design that could spread to the entire Mission School District.

Students at Silverdale Elementary are benefiting from a new Makerspace Learning Lab which opened at the school two weeks ago.

The lab allows children to integrate science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) learning in a new way.

The name Makerspace literally means a space where you make stuff.

“Makerspace is an opportunity for kids to do more hands-on learning, experimenting, figuring out ideas, concepts and designs which we link to our curriculum,” explained Rob Clark, principal of Silverdale Elementary.

He said many universities and colleges have Makerspace labs for trades and technical studies, including robotics.

The Silverdale space is no different.

While students can create structures using Lego or Kapla blocks (small planks of wood), there is also a robotics section where students can learn to program a small robot to move around in a specific pattern or just drive it free-hand.

The lab also has a reverse engineering section where students learn by dismantling items like old VCRs and zip drives.

“We use different electronics that have been donated by parents, and because kids like to take stuff apart, we can teach them in a safe way how to take something apart without ruining something,” said Clark.

When it comes to the Kapla blocks, students are encouraged to build and design anything they want.

“They have to understand aspects of engineering, balance, forces of motion and they actually create pretty cool projects.”

But everything constructed is temporary and is taken apart at the end of the day.

“If they are working on a project and they get to a certain stage, the idea is to try to get the project finished in the time they are there. So we try not to make these massive projects because this is just part of the learning process.

“This isn’t our end project. It is exploring the ideas that we have. Is this going to work? Sometimes they will create a design and try to build that design and there are mistakes. Then they go back and fix the design and go back and try to build it another day,” explained Clark

He said it allows students to go through the learning process, from creation to success. But students also learn “how important all those fails were to get to that point.”

It’s a lot of fun and frustration at the same time.

“We see it as an opportunity for kids to get a more hands-on, active learning happening throughout the school.”

The Makerspace is unique in the Mission school district as Silverdale is the first school to run the program.

Silverdale Elementary has about 110 students attending classes from kindergarten to Grade 6. Clark said the program has been a big hit with teachers and students so far and it will be presented to the Mission school board at the next public meeting.

It’s possible that Makerspace labs could eventually be integrated into other Mission schools.


Mission City Record