Learning Compassion in Islip’s Makerspace

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School librarian Gina Seymour runs a unique MakerCare program at the high school, dedicated to nurturing philanthropic qualities while benefiting both local and global organizations. Collaborating with service-based clubs in the school and cultivating partnerships with outside agencies, the students carry out hands-on service projects, taking an active role in making a difference in their community and the world.

Participants in the program, now in its third year, include those who need service hours or who want to make a difference; and members of clubs such as Interact, SADD, Maker Club; Heidi Stevens’ sewing class; as well as Commack Road Elementary School students involved through their library program.

“Maker activities for children foster valuable learning opportunities,” said Seymour. “In our school makerspaces, students learn about science, technology, engineering and even artistic expression. This seems like a lot, and yet there’s even more that students can learn in a makerspace – namely, compassion and empathy. Maker education need not be limited to STEM or STEAM but can embrace the whole child. As a make and donate program, MakerCare fosters civic engagement among our students.”

The MakerCare program has encompassed a wide variety of projects. Earlier in the school year, students made dog toys for the Town of Islip Animal Shelter using tennis balls recycled from the high school tennis team and fabric rope made from recycled T-shirts.

“Dogs are often bored being kenneled all day, and joy can be brought to them by creating these simple toys,” said Seymour. “All of the necessary supplies were derived from recycled materials as we emphasize environmental sustainability as well as helping others. “

Students in Stevens’ sewing class learned how to sew a basic straight stitch by making catnip toys for the animal shelter. The class also sewed dresses for African schools through the Little Dresses for Africa program. 

In other projects, Habitat for Humanity Club adviser Sue Riche and art teacher Lorraine Knoblauch were in the makerspace with students, working on decorative wood plaques to be donated to Habitat for Humanity, while Islip’s KIC Club helped make skeins of “plarn”’ – yarn made from plastic bags – to be crocheted into sleep mats for the homeless. 

Community organizations in need of a donation or that would like to make a donation can contact Seymour at gseymour@islipufsd.org or call Islip High School Library at 631-650-8336.