As many of you know, work is currently underway for Orchard’s new Makerspace! The Fred Lorenz Makerspace, named in honor of Orchard’s legendary shop teacher, is slated to be completed in January of 2020.
Even though we won’t be cutting the ribbon anytime soon, Makerspace Coordinator Scott Weaver is already hard at work. “As coordinator, my main role will be to work with individual teachers and grade-level teams to find ways I can help them enhance their projects/curriculum,” Scott said. “Ultimately, I hope to be a resource for teachers so they can have students "making" as a way of learning.”
Throughout his two years in second grade, eight years in fourth grade, and two years in sixth grade, Scott has regularly used his ability to “make” while integrating academics to create lifelong learning moments.
Scott has built a chess table for the main entrance, books shelves, bridges and boot racks for Early Childhood students, tiny homes and a Pinewood Derby track during math class, sets for classroom plays, and much more!
Scott considers himself a dreamer and a lifelong hobbyist, something his students have benefited from over the past 12 years here at Orchard. “Kids have to see teachers dreaming big,” Scott said, “and trying innovative things, failing, iterating, collaborating, and problem-solving.”
The term Makerspace has gained a lot of attention in the past few years. Can you explain precisely what a Makerspace is and what it will look like at Orchard?
I believe a Makerspace is a dedicated area with physical and digital tools where people fabricate/make things, often working collaboratively and iterating as a means of incremental improvement. Orchard's Makerspace will have a dedicated workshop for carpentry related projects, a flexible classroom space for teachers to use, and a digital design studio which will eventually house materials for teaching robotics, circuitry, and 3D printing. There will also be a large storage closet for materials. The primary emphasis of the physical space is that it is flexible. This includes the ability to move tables, open up adjacent rooms via large sliding/pocket doors, and ample see-through partitions. The concept prioritizes safety, collaboration, and adaptability.
Most teachers are setting up their classroom space and preparing for students to arrive next week. Since your classroom currently consists of dirt and no walls, what kind of things are you doing to prepare for the year ahead?
Keep in mind, there is an existing workshop in the fourth-grade hallway. It will become the next victim to my neurotic obsession with organization. That's not to say I'm the most organized person in the world, but one thing is certain: safe and efficient workshops require constant management, including someone who can locate any item in a short period of time.
Brain research is telling us that multiple modalities of learning and being assessed are critical to increasing the learning capacity in students. This will require me to communicate regularly and proactively with teachers about their curriculum, create an inviting workspace, offer training on tool use, schedule spaces, manage resources, and establish systems that maximize the use of the space(s).
I'm a list type of guy. I always build myself a master document with thoughts, ideas, to-do's, priorities, and it's constantly evolving. My master list has been building ever since I first recognized that the Makerspace was going to happen in the hopes I would get to be involved in some way.
Here's a glimpse of my lists:
Things I'm Researching:
- Technology/Engineering Education Curriculum(s)
- Existing Scope and Sequences
- Makerspace books/literature
- Models of efficiency
- Area connections that will offer mutual benefit
- Teacher/team hopes/dreams
- Ways to manage/improve communal use areas
Things I'm Archiving:
- Existing projects teachers are doing that would be better served by/in a Makerspace
- Tech projects that could be enhanced in the Makerspace
- Models of learning that could benefit specific units of study not currently being done via "making" things
- Questions people have to understand how best to synthesize and inform our community
- Obstacles/challenges that will need to be solved
- Creative ideas people have
- Connections that will serve us
So you’ll have plenty to do until the Makerspace opens sometime in January?
Definitely! We already have many things in place that would essentially add up to a Makerspace. We have a workshop, 3D printers, robotics. We have amazing math and science projects. We have an excellent Middle School Tech teacher who is already doing projects that you'd find in 80% of Makerspaces in our area. I will be working to bring all the working parts of our "existing" Makerspace together and serve as a resource for teachers so they can do more with their curriculum. This will include spending a great deal of time learning what everyone wants out of the space and figuring out how best to serve those hopes and dreams.
Having a dedicated person to support teachers with creative projects is essential. Until the full space is operational, I will be using the existing spaces (the small shop and classrooms) and essentially serving the role that I will once the space is finalized. I will also be managing the transition to a modern and central space. A massive part of that process will be figuring out who needs me, in what capacity, and therefore planning a schedule. A position such as mine will empower teachers in a similar way that having an Outdoor Education Coordinator (Colleen Bumford) supports our commitment to learning from nature or having a Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Lisa Pryor) supports everyone's journey to advocate for a more just society.
Signing the first Makersapce beam
You’ve taught in elementary and middle school here at Orchard, are you excited to impact the entire school now?
One hundred percent, yes! I love the range. I've taught after school clubs for the youngest Orchard kids all the way up to clubs/electives for 8th-graders. The variety is really nice and it helps me understand the developmental needs of kids at different stages. It's interesting to see how kids are more eager to use a new tool at certain ages, or even watch older kids become more reluctant to try something for fear of being incapable or embarrassed to even try. I've had so many teachers in the EC/ES tell me they're looking forward to having their students make things. I am a little nervous to not have a dedicated team and interact with the same set of adults on a daily basis, but hopefully, I'll still be able to have a sense of connection and get to know more teachers. I think there'll be value in seeing the school from that new perspective.
I believe another benefit to working with all students is that it will give me greater insight into how to develop a scope and sequence. As a teacher of a single grade, you have deep knowledge of your grade-level content, and you rely a great deal on other teachers to help you "see" their depth since you're not living it each day. Working with every single grade will give me a broad view and allow me to have a different view than specific grade level teachers. This should help me support teams in a unique way.