The brand new B.C. curriculum has Glenmerry students learning 21st century skills in applied technologies, such as coding and robotics, in their designated makerspace. Elsewhere in the Kootenay Columbia district, Fruitvale Elementary School also has a makerspace classroom that includes its own 3D printer. (Submitted photo)

SD20 students look to the future in makerspace class

Glenmerry and Fruitvale elementary schools both have a designated makerspace classroom

Today’s students are never too young to develop a foundation in Applied Design, Skills and Technology.

In fact “ADST” basics now begin in Kindergarten and evolve through elementary grades with 21st century lessons from coding to robotics, and right up through high school in specialized disciplines like business education, home economics, shop or information technology.

Other K-12 buzz words within ADST instruction include cross-curriculum teaching and growth mindset. But at the centre of it all, is a new and required class that begins in elementary school, called “makerspace.”

Makerspace describes a place where people gather – in this case, students – to share interests in computing or technology, work on projects together using modern equipment like 3D printers, and learn about new ideas.

Within School District 20, Glenmerry and Fruitvale elementary schools have a designated makerspace classroom called Open Source Lab, with instruction beginning as early as Grade 1.

“It is a class, like math, science and social studies,” explains Mike Page, a Grade 5 Glenmerry teacher. “The best part about this is cross-curricular, (meaning) we can teach math, science, art, music, anything, through our makerspace.”

Coding, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, 3D design and 3D printing are concepts taught in the makerspace.

For example, the Grade 1 class joined Page’s students in a project that incorporated learning both outside the four walls and within.

“We went outside and looked at snowflakes,” he explained. “Then we read a book about how everyone is an individual just like every snowflake is individual or different, and then the grade one students drew a snowflake that resembled them.”

The Grade 5 class took each unique snowflake drawing, designed it three-dimensionally and then printed the 3D image for the younger students.

“That led to learning about science, surface texture, surface tension and so on,” said Page.

Those lessons reflect interdisciplinary or cross-curricular teaching, which involves a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously.

“It’s their favourite part of the day,” said Page. “The students don’t know they are learning, and you’ll see these ‘aha’ moments … it’s about facing a challenge, not being able to do it, and saying ‘I can’ rather than ‘I can’t.'”

In other words, students are learning “growth mindset,” or the belief that basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, which fosters a love of learning and resilience.

“It’s hard, kids fail everyday but then they learn and they grow and they get better, ” Page said. “And this is through something fun, you watch the kids struggle and fail, then improve.”

The Glenmerry and Fruitvale makerspaces were developed using a Trail-based asset called the MIDAS Lab.

“We would not be here without MIDAS,” said Page. “They are great at teaching teachers, and getting us engaged.”

An integral part of makerspace learning involves “STREAM,” a concept Page says they swiped from MIDAS Lab Director Brad Pommen.

It refers to Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Artisan and Makers, Pommen explained.

“Students are disconnected from the origins of objects they use everyday, from iPhones to 3D printers, resources are difficult to navigate and find guidance,” he said.

“Having a base in my STREAM curriculum ultimately opens up their world and provides them confidence to build, learn and share their ideas.”

Concepts overlap and create linkages that facilitate education across all classroom subjects.

“Learning how to build, program and compete a robot (in RoboGames) combines programming technologies,” Pommen added. “Robotics introduces logic, engineering speaks to the design aspects, and maker is putting the whole physical package together, with 3D printing for example.”

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