This past March, BHS Help Desk student Cat Hoyt connected with Laura Fleming and Diana Rendina on Digital Learning Day and learned about their successful makerspace programs. Since then, the BHS Help Desk students have been busy designing a makerspace of their own. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the BHS Art Department, specifically art teacher Christina Chang and her talented students (both current and former), the student run Maker Studio at BHS is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2015. The Maker Studio will be an extension of the Help Desk program and will be led by Help Desk students Timmy Sullivan and Sid Srivastava. Timmy and Sid (we’re not sure if their official titles will be Chief Innovation Officers, Digital Learning Directors, or Maker Studio Managers) are beyond excited to develop this new and innovative learning space! Not surprisingly, they’ve already started to collaborate on their first (top secret) maker studio project. Seeing our space develop over the past few months has been truly inspiring and what the students have accomplished so far has exceeded my expectations.
Extreme Makeover: Help Desk Edition
The first phase in creating our makerspace was to select the right location. Because our makerspace is an extension of the Help Desk curriculum, and we want it to be accessible by all Burlington students and teachers, we decided to transform a library storage room adjacent to the Help Desk into a haven for creating, building, and exploring. I met with Christina several weeks ago and explained to her that we wanted to design an attractive, eye-catching space and she was instantly on board. Christina and her architecture students began brainstorming the color palette. Within two weeks, the room morphed from monotone, off white walls into a fun, modern, and vibrant space. The bright colors alone have already sparked curiosity among our students. The 3D Makerbot printer in the window as well as the pair of Google Glass have also generated some chatter among students as to what the new “room” is going to offer.
In terms of our studio’s branding, the space also features a custom logo designed by BHS alumni and graphic designer Lauren Vigneau. Lauren collaborated with Christina’s students and taught them a lesson on logo design as well as how to market yourself as a designer. Lauren’s website Birchnine features her impressive portfolio of work, contact information, and resume. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Lauren about the studio and she is incredibly enthusiastic about partnering with me, Christina, and our students. The entire transformation process (which is not fully complete) was truly a collaborative effort and it offered our students authentic, real-world learning experiences. It also allowed me to meet and recruit a new Help Desk student. Donnie Boermeester, a gifted craftsman, plans to join the Help Desk next year and will continue to be a part of shaping the mission, purpose, and direction of the student run Maker Studio at BHS. I’m sure Donnie, Timmy, Sidd, and the rest of the 15-16 Help Desk staff will ensure the inaugural year of our Maker Studio is a huge success.
So, We’ve Got A Room…Now What?
Now that the makeover of the space is nearly complete, the next phase is to determine what kinds of learning activities will take place in the Maker Studio. Although it isn’t a large space, it will accommodate several maker stations that the Help Desk students are currently brainstorming. We are considering the following maker themes:
1. 3D design and printing
2. Wearable tech (Google Glass)
3. Coding/app development
4. Multimedia creation (green screen & podcasting)
5. DIY stations
6. Deconstruction station (breaking, hacking, rebuilding)
We have an eclectic student body here at Burlington High School. I envision creating a space that appeals to a wide range of students. From aspiring coders to jewelry and fashion designers, to future engineers, my goal is to create a space where students of varying backgrounds can merge their talents and innovate. Sounds a bit like the real-world doesn’t it?! The most exciting aspect of our Maker Studio is that it will be a place for students to gather, make, build, and play, without the pressure of working for a grade. Students will have freedom and flexibility to learn what they want, at their own pace, and for the sake of learning, not because of a directive or mandate. Ultimately, our Maker Studio can help develop independent, self-motivated learners who will gain hands-on experience and skill sets rooted in E-STEAM.
Students Teaching and Leading Students
Staying true to the foundation of the Help Desk and allowing students to drive their own learning, the vision of the BHS Maker Stuido is to offer student led, E-STEAM-based workshops for the entire Burlington community; with the first “E” meaning entrepreneurship. My hope is that students will take their making and building to a level where their creations have value and sales potential. This could eventually lead to a makerspace that is financially self-sustaining.
Admittedly, I have no idea if the vision for our Maker Studio will become a reality. I am however optimistic that our student leaders, innovators, and creators will build a unique learning environment where our entire community has the opportunity to experiment and explore. I’m also fortunate to work in a district where the leadership allows for this type of curriculum experimentation to occur and values student driven, project-based learning.
And one more thing…in case you are wondering…the total cost of this transformation to date? Zero dollars!
Take a look at the slideshow below to see the work of our talented students!