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Makerspace builds collaboration

November 30th, 2017

By Kelly Lynch | KPC News - The Advance Leader

West Noble Elementary School’s Makerspace program centers on the four C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

“And it’s fun,” coordinator Tammy Bieberich said with a laugh.

New to the school this year, the computer lab-turned-classroom is filled with everything from markers and Popsicle sticks to Legos and woodworking supplies, and they’re used each day to teach students how to work together in a creative environment and toward a specific purpose.

“I wanted something where they were excited to go to it,” said Bieberich, who also teaches art. “I wanted them building, learning. As an art teacher, I didn’t want it something they were going to make at the end to keep. I wanted it to be something they could experience.”

The Makerspace class is held four times a week, with a different teacher each day, and centers around projects that focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Citing a long list of benefits to the program, the ones she’s most encouraged to see develop are the socialization and teamwork elements of each lesson.

Whereas students before thought mostly about themselves and how they were individually going to accomplish something, she hears a lot more “we” and “us” now.

“I really saw that at first they didn’t get along,” said Bieberich of some of the groups. “For the most part, they’re starting to work together, and they’re starting to collaborate and talk to each other about what they’re working on and making. It’s cool to see them take on something together instead of it’s all about me and all about mine.”

It’s a prospect that thrills Principal Mark Yoder, who says he’s always surprised when he steps into the classroom and sees how well the students are working together.

“I think it’s become one of their favorite classes. They’re given a task at the start and then given the materials, and they just go. They work together, they plan,” Yoder said. “That’s really one of the goals of the whole program: to think creatively but also to be able to work with other people to complete a task or a goal.”

With so many solutions to some of the tasks, such as how to create a catapult or build an egg tower, each student brings a unique outlook to the lesson. Because of that, Bieberich said the hard part as a teacher is being able to take a step back to allow the students the freedom to succeed, but also to fail.

“At first, I wasn’t sure how to do a project where they had so many individual, different styles. I had a hard time letting them do it, not having so much control, letting them fail and letting them fix it,” Bieberich said. “I wanted to go, ‘Here’s how you do it.’ But, no, I had to let them figure it out.”

A recent lesson centered on engineering and asked students to construct a table out of craft supplies to hold a Thanksgiving dinner, which in this case were cutouts of the main courses and side dishes.

Bieberich walked around the room for those who needed help, but for the most part, students were left to their own devices.

While it makes the room “loud and rowdy,” Bieberich said, it also makes the work more fun and brings positive energy to the students’ projects.

Yoder said parents ask a lot about the Makerspace program because their student talks so much about it at home, and he credits their love of the class to Bieberich, a 17-year veteran of West Noble.

“She’s really that creative thinker, getting kids to do the things they didn’t think they could do. That kind of person,” Yoder said.

“With the way education is going, it’s not always about getting the right answer. It’s about thinking more deeply, problem solving, trying to understand the process sometimes more so than the product, and I think that’s what this is doing.”