Dedicated for Making: Special Space at High School Takes Off

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Now in its second year, the high school’s dedicated makerspace provides a hands-on learning area with activities for students of all grade levels and abilities. Making allows Islip’s students to explore knowledge through action discovery and imaginative thinking. The act of making and tinkering helps the high schoolers develop critical thinking skills through persistence and creative problem solving and promotes an environment of collaboration and communication.

In the makerspace, located in the school library students visit during their lunch periods and may use any item in the space to build anything they imagine. Some projects require days or weeks to complete, while some students just tinker for 40 minutes. The area is large enough to maintain several works in progress.

The makerspace program began with simple supplies and systems such as puzzles, recyclables, Legos and K’nex building sets, and by the end of the first year, Islip had included tech kits such as Makey Makey, BrushBots and drones. According to school librarian Gina Seymour, the most popular makerspace projects this year are items with circuits, such as Snap Circuits and LittleBits, which are used daily by classes and individual students, as well as robots like MiP, MiPosaur, Sparki and Ozobots. A particular hit in 2016 was the Meccanoid robot, built by student Tyler Nakkin.

Islip’s English language learner program has made extensive use of the makerspace. ELL students sometimes lack confidence in other classes, but in the makerspace, they can take risks in a safe environment. Guided but independent, they are exposed to activities they might not otherwise experienced due to their academic load in learning English.

“Language is not a barrier when my students use the makerspace,” said ELL teacher Claudia Osorio, who noted that many of the makerspace tech resources, such as SnapCircuits and Ozobots, utilize colors when building or programming, which facilitates visual learning for the ELL students.

Special education students also find a source of growth and creativity in the makerspace, according to teacher Cheryl Hegermiller. Rather than it being a one-time experience, her students want to return to the makerspace, where they can see the results of their work rather than simply sitting and listening.

“My students feel successful when they go to the makerspace,” Hegermiller said. “The most valuable part of the makerspace is that it is something students enjoy. It’s self-directed creation and design, and the students communicate with each other while making. The best thing about it is that makerspace activities go across all areas of the curriculum.”