Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Welcome to the RES Makerspace

I am excited to announce that the start of this school year has also been the grand opening of the new RES Makerspace!  A Makerspace is a place that encourages hands on exploration through creating, making, playing and tinkering.

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, third and fourth grade students spent time designing a new learning space.  They used ideas from other schools, as well as a tour of the physical space to create their plans.  By the years end we had a thirty six page document that included ideas from one hundred students!  Over the summer I worked to break these ideas into major groups and respond to as many ideas as possible with the conversion of our old computer lab to a Makerspace.  I reached out to families in the community, and many people spent time over the summer contributing to create the space RES students envisioned.

As with any learning space, we know that the layout and function will adapt to the needs of students...but as we begin the year...we are excited by all the possibilities this new space holds.  Students have been visiting the space with their classroom teachers. Here is a peek into what they have found!

An epic Lego wall provides a platform for collaborative building!

The window area provides a space for reading, meeting with small groups, taking a break during the making process or even interviewing others!

A computer area holds the promise of a place to utilize technology for creation.  We foresee some great coding and technology applications happening here.
Storage shelving contains a myriad of donated materials that will support students in making and creating.
The word create reminds students of their purpose and hangs over the area where they can showcase their work. Each letter contributed by a different family in the community, emphasizing the community and collaborative spirit of the space.
A green screen is now available for video projects. (The SMARTboard is also still available)
Students have all the tools and set up to create stop motion videos.

A space has been set aside for future station creations, including a take apart station and a sewing station.
Standing and sitting tables for making.
Tables with dry erase board paint, for sketching and planning and drawing.

 We cannot wait to see what students will make!

If you want to know more about the Makerspace, or become involved in collecting materials, or help to make challenges for students. Please contact me at darcie.rankin@cesuvt.org.

"Breaking Out" to Create New Learning Opportunities

This summer I tried a new experience for me. I went to an "Escape Room".  This was an hour challenge. I worked with five strangers and my husband (who grudgingly went along!) to solve a series of puzzles that allowed us to escape from a really amazing theatrical set up.  It was a fun and unique experience, and I have recommended it to friends...but it also started my thinking about how the engagement I witnessed and felt in this environment could be transferred to my classroom teaching practice.  During my 'escape' I noticed that despite the styles and personalities of everyone there, we were all engaged in this team effort to escape.

I went home and started researching the concept of escape rooms.  I found that there was a large community of fellow teachers around the country who felt the same way I did about this concept.  There was already a professional community of learners creating educational break out games, and espousing the practice as some of the most engaging activities they had done with students across a whole year of learning!  I began purchasing locks and signed up to be a beta tester on the breakout.edu site...where I could access games and ideas from other educators (http://www.breakoutedu.com/).

One of my main teaching goals in enrichment is for students to collaborate. In order to collaborate effectively I believe we must all be given many chances to work together.  The idea of a whole class working together to break out is very exciting to me and I wanted to try a game.  The fact that games already existed gave me the additional support I needed to get started early in the school year. I am very thankful for the online community who is creating these examples, especially game designer and librarian Amy Williams, whose game I adapted for my first break out teaching experience.

In our fourth grade enrichment/library class we focus early in the year on skills that students will need to work on capstone projects in the second half of the year. One important skill is the ability to find nonfiction resources in the library. This was a perfect skill for a break out!

It is a few days since I tried the break out with students and I am already considering how and when I will use this new methodology to introduce and teach other concepts.  Students are coming up to me in the halls asking to do another one....and telling me how much they loved learning this way.  Taking a risk and trying a new teaching methodology has reminded me of why I love teaching so much....to learn alongside students, to show them that I want them to learn but also that I want them to try new things, to take risks in their learning, and have fun....

I took many pictures of our first RES break out, and I hope this video helps to capture some of the engagement and excitement students experienced.