By Sadie Hunter
It’s no surprise that as a school district grows, its programming shifts to reflect innovation, cutting-edge technology and real-life learning.
At Noblesville Schools, makerspaces have reflected all of this, expanding the resources and offerings of the district’s libraries in its elementary and middle schools and the high school.
Now entering the third year, makerspaces are creative, do-it-yourself spaces that allow students to explore and invent things they’re interested in, from crocheting to robot coding and programming.
Jessica Homan, media specialist at Noble Crossing Elementary, said a couple of years ago, all the media specialists were tasked with researching makerspaces and testing them out.
“So, I think with that approach, we all were able to figure out what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it, which is just something Noblesville Schools does very well, letting us find our way into things. The initiative is a place with resources and tools that is collaborative where kids can come together and create things that they would like.”
The makerspaces initiative was launched in 2014 in the district’s elementary schools and later expanded to both middle schools and the high school.
On a daily basis, students come down to the library from their classes to continue working on a project or start a new one. Individually, students visit the library during recess, once they’ve finished lunch, during their own Student-Learning Time or throughout the school day with a teacher’s permission.
“So we think about a library, and we think about books, and those are still really important,” said Leah Fields, media specialist at Promise Road Elementary. “But then you think about the library as a place where kids can come and create, and they’re challenged to innovate and solve problems. It’s really a place where they want to be because they know they can do these things.”
“I see it as a kind of tinkering that mirrors play and inquiry together,” said Sherrie McGovern, media specialist at Stony Creek Elementary. “We have the high tech, which includes all the different technology that we get to use … and then the low tech is more of, especially in the elementary setting, where the kids start that process of taking risk and understanding that it’s OK to fail because they can change it and rework it, and they get to collaborate and talk to others and exchange knowledge, which is so important.”
“That’s the real key,” added Becky Dowan, media specialist at Noblesville East Middle School. “When they have to collaborate and work together and problem-solve. I often find that kids will start on one thing, and it will evolve into something entirely different.”
Popular projects in the makerspaces include crocheting, working in the tinker lab (engineering, innovation, problem solving), Spheros, upcycling, coding, Lincoln Logs, making paper airplanes and marble tracks with PVC pipes, painting, circuit-building, weaving, green screens and video editing, among many others.
Teachers and parents are active in donating supplies, from newspapers and magazines to extra or old craft materials. Libraries throughout the district are actively taking donations of similar items.
Funding for the district’s makerspaces is made up of a mix of grant money, library funds set forth by the district, donated items and personal purchases by media specialists and teachers.
“Some of our communities don’t have libraries or librarians in their libraries, and we are grateful that our school system and our community supports this,” Homan said. “We feel we have the opportunity to take these risks and say, ‘We want kids here, and we’re going to do whatever we can to make our space accessible to our community and to our students and invite people in and show them what we’re doing,’ and so I think anytime that we can promote what we do is really important to the survival of media centers and books and libraries in general.”
Sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces and fablabs, makerspaces are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent and learn. In libraries, they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools and more.
Creating a makerspace at Noblesville High School
While Noblesville High School’s makerspace area has not yet been defined, the programming is still in existence.
Things like 3D printers and a laser engraver at the back of the high school help make up some areas utilized as makerspaces. Marnie Cooke, director of Marketing and Communications at Noblesville Schools, said an area also has been transformed into a podcast studio.
“I feel like too in the high school, you become more specialized,” said Jessica Homan, media specialist at Noble Crossing Elementary. “I know there are some classes who are becoming more problem-based and project-based in high school, but still wrapped around their curriculum. So, I think the initiative is soaking into the more specific things.”
“Certainly from a cultural standpoint, it’s pretty ingrained already,” Cooke said. “It’s just a matter of them having a well-developed and equipped facility space for it.”