Last year, with the help of the Culver City Education Foundation (CCEF), El Rincon launched its very own Makerspace!
Makerspaces are hands-on problem solving places. Like professional engineers, students will use their knowledge, experience and imagination to solve problems, testing and reworking their solutions until they are satisfied. Away from textbooks and worksheets, they will learn practical lessons in math, physics, computer science, engineering and even business.
“During the course of each trimester,” CCUSD Curriculum and Instruction Specialist Carla Zimmermann-Madrid explains, “we will take them through various stages of technology building and processing.” All under the guidance of credentialed Makerspace teachers.
One first trimester challenge will have students grappling with a problem presented in a story, like Rapunzel. Rapunzel lived in a high tower with no stairs. The only way people could visit her was to use her hair like a rope and climb up. It hurt. Working in groups of three or four, students would try to solve Rapunzel’s problem by creating a different way for visitors to get into her lonely tower. With Pringles cans serving as simulated towers and a host of supplies to choose from, students might build ramps, catapults, pulley systems or some previously unimagined solution.
In the second trimester students will engage with grade-specific technologies, like the simple robots resembling bees that will introduce TK and Kindergarten students to coding. The students will use pushbuttons on the bots to create programs that make the bees move in specific ways. Later they‘ll move to a digital programming interface.
It is hoped that the Makerspace program will also be able to procure buildable, reusable computer parts, so that older students could learn to follow a plan and build a computer. Then they could create a digital environment where they can solve different kinds of challenges. After all, explains Zimmerman-Madrid, “We don’t want our kids to just be technology consumers. We want them to be technology builders, creators and engineers. We want them to understand how the technology they are interacting with works.”
In the third trimester students will use what they’ve learned over the course of the year to create a final project. They will be asked to identify a problem and then think about how they might build something that would address that problem. Older children might even align with a local non-profit. The results will be solutions of their own invention for problems they want to address. “It’s all about student innovation and inquiry, developing their own thinking and problem solving capacity, “ explains Zimmerman-Madrid. It’s also empowering.
As the students work together they won’t just learn about math, physics and computer programming. They’ll learn how to discuss problems and solutions, how to work together as a team, how to learn from one another, and how to appreciate and make use of their diverse ideas, skills and experiences. And they will be learning all of this amazing stuff while having a blast!