Students at Blue Bell Elementary have been busy exploring, building, innovating and having fun in the new MakerSpace – a dedicated area with building materials, such as Legos, electronic kits, gadgets and other technology to teach students about robotics, coding, engineering and more. Led by Librarian Lisa Ruff, the initiative to develop a MakerSpace kicked off this school year and has quickly grown with the support of staff, parents and community members and most recently a $5,600 grant from the Wissahickon Educational Opportunities Foundation (WEOF).
Ruff requested the grant after surveying students about the types of activities and materials they wanted in the MakerSpace. She determined that students wanted to build their own robots and use coding to control the robots. After consulting a variety of sources, including the WMS Robotics coaches, Ruff decided to request two Lego Education products, WeDo 2.0 and EV3 – products that offer customization along with graphic and text coding and use students’ familiarity with Legos bricks to build things. She also sought funding for Ozobots – small robots that use graphic coding commands to control the robot. Ruff was awarded the grant to purchase these items at the April WEOF meeting.
“Through the generosity of WEOF and our school community, we built a MakerSpace together that is going to provide enriched learning opportunities for our students. All students deserve exposure and access to these types of experiences in a 21st century learning environment,” Ruff said.
The Maker movement started with a Lego wall. During the school year, the community donated 45 baseplates needed to complete the wall as well as hundreds of Lego bricks.
The first challenge was for students to build something that would not fall off the wall. “As easy as the challenge may sound, several groups did not complete it. Tears were avoided by celebrating these “productive” failures and learning from them,” Ruff said. “Students evaluated their designs along with their classmates and the flaws were observed with suggestions on how remedy them. Some of what the students also learned from the failures was to not give up by working through frustration, to take risks, share ideas, predicting/testing of ideas, revising and modifying, and the value of diversity of thought gained when working with others.”
Ruff plans to continue using challenges for the wall and is looking forward to incorporating the new robots to spark the builder, creator, innovator, and tinkerer in all the students.