Room to Grow

“It’s the best thing ever because it’s fun and I like building stuff. It doesn’t feel like school. It feels like playing,” said Palmer Elementary 5th grader Brandon Bosket.

Brandon isn’t talking about recess or a new extracurricular activity. He’s talking about activities at the newest addition to Windsor elementary schools, MakerSpace, where, at Palmer Elementary, teacher Danielle Saraceno challenges students to build solutions to problems.
Three young girls at a table working with Lego 

“The MakerSpace is about team building, teamwork, and creative problem solving. We’re letting them come up with the answers. When they ask a question, we ask a question back,” said Saraceno. 

The MakerSpace is a collaborative work space that encourages hands-on learning.

“Our goal is to expose students to many different opportunities that will allow them to imagine how to make things better, to extend a story through imagination and creation.  We want our students to move from consumers to creators,” said Palmer Elementary principal Toby Youngs.

One of the activities included a build with popsicle sticks and clothes pins. The goal was to learn how to build the tallest structure that could hold the most weight. 

“We thought of a plan to do and we built it,” said 1st grader Aubrey Navin. 

“We give them a little and let them come up with the choice. We have them think it through,” said Saraceno.

Students engage in some activities individually and others as part of small groups. But, teamwork and cooperation doesn’t always mean being in full agreement. How to navigate differences of opinion is also part of the lesson of makerspace activities. 

“We want them to learn how to politely disagree and work together, how to speak to one another and make suggestions,” said Saraceno.
A young boy with a small lego boat in a bin of water 

As the school year progresses, students will have more and more freedom to choose how they want to tackle a particular challenge. 

“I'm not necessarily being a teacher, I'm being a facilitator,” said Saraceno. 

Youngs likes to think about the Apollo 13 moon mission. When emergency struck, astronauts in space had to work in real time with NASA engineers on earth. Using only materials available on their space craft, they came up with a life-saving solution.

“That is making, using different materials to construct something to solve a real-world problem.  Those are the skills that we hope to develop in our students through MakerSpace,” said Youngs. “Our hope is to inspire the next generation of individuals who maybe one day will help a spaceship return to earth safely.”

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