You may have heard HTEA’s Lower School Library is not your average library. You won’t walk in and find students sitting quietly with books. Instead, you’ll find students using technology, science, engineering, math, and most of all, their own creativity to design and create amazing things. After receiving a grant from Harris Corporation, a complete Makerspace was built among the rows of books. Now, in addition to checking out books and earning those coveted AR points, students are designing models, building circuits, and learning real-life skills.
How did this come to be? It all started with Mrs. Judy Houser, the HTEA Lower School Librarian. Today, she describes the latest milestone in the life of the Makerspace, receiving the Air Force Association Educator Grant to fund the research and “making” projects in her classroom:
I am pleased to announce that once again HTEA has been awarded an Air Force Association Educator Grant. This grant was established to assist educators in promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in our nation’s classrooms. It is our fifth year to receive these funds.
The grant is being used to fund a project that promotes research and “making.” Students can often access information using electronic resources, but need practice in searching efficiently and determining if the information retrieved is reliable. Hoping that creating electronic models would provide a high degree of motivation for researching with a purpose, I asked the Air Force Association to provide Littlebits Electronics kits for our Makerspace. The Littlebits electronic units simply snap together so that students can create circuits in seconds.
I am currently implementing this project with our fifth-grade students. The students have conducted online research to determine the model they will build and how to build it. They are recording the sources used so they can later evaluate the usefulness of the information retrieved. Most students are currently in the building phase. Their goal for a successful model is one that will have a complete electronic circuit and be fully operational. Our projects range from light-up scooters to automatic chocolate milk stirrers.
I expect a variety of outcomes–some students will find their models easier to build than others. All students will be encouraged to make improvements to their engineering design process. Starting over from scratch will be allowed so that if a team is unhappy with their original design, they can try something entirely different.
Students will self-evaluate their research by providing a written critique of their resources. The class will generate a suggestion list of other projects that could be researched in a similar way. We will also discuss how the skills and procedures used could be applied to other real-life situations.
The Littlebits kits will be available as part of our Makerspace so that students in grades 4th – 6th can continue to explore with electronic circuits. HT’s school administration is convinced that tinkering and exploring are essential to student learning. We are very grateful to the Air Force Association for supporting us in our STEM endeavors.
Judy Houser, Lower School Librarian
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy