Richland receives award in Makerspace competition

Friday, September 13, 2019

ESSEX, Mo. — Last spring, shortly before the school year ended, Richland R-1 School District learned that it had won the Makerspace contest sponsored by the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA).

“The competition was an effort by MSTA to promote Makerspace in schools throughout the state,” explains Lisa Taylor, Makerspace facilitator for the Richland district. “Districts had to produce a video illustrating how they were utilizing Makerspace in their schools.”

Taylor went on to say, “There was only one prize and no breakdown by school size, so we were competing against some pretty large districts. The award was a $250 Amazon card, which we applied toward the purchase of video equipment.”

Their winning video, Taylor points out, was produced by 2019 graduate Draven Pettigo as a project for his PC maintenance class.

Taylor explains, “Makerspace is a nationwide effort to repurpose unused or little used areas in schools into functional, creative work-spaces. Our district took a section of the library and designated it for Makerspace.”

Taylor says the development of Makerspace evolved from the district’s desire to enhance student achievement and to integrate project-based learning into the curriculum.

“We had challenged the students with testing, and the district has won national recognition in that area. Our superintendent Mr. Killian, working with the staff, decided project-based learning would be our next big step,” she says.

In the summer of 2016, a group of core-class teachers from the district traveled to California to tour High Tech High and other facilities that were successfully integrating hands-on, project-based learning into their schools.

In addition to Taylor, other staff members who made the trip were Stephanie DePew, Curt and Kara Miller, Paul and Rebecca Arnold, and high school principal Cindy Rhodes.

Upon returning, the district began assembling their Makerspace area, which now includes three 3-D printers; a laser-cutter; Cricut machine; sewing machines; video-editing station; and a green screen room for filming. In addition, state-of-the-art photography and video equipment is available for student use.

“Since the Makerspace is housed in the library, I act as facilitator,” explains Taylor, who is the district librarian and teaches junior high communication arts. “Besides ordering and restocking supplies, I also supervise students while they are working here.”

Taylor points out that every student in grades 7 through 12 have access to Makerspace.

“The work area is, of course, available during class periods and advisory,” Taylor says, “but students have access during lunch and before and after school, as well.”

In addition to class assignments, students also have the opportunity to pursue projects that appeal to their individual interests.

“In Ms. DePew’s room, for example,” Taylor says, “there is Makerspace Monday, which allows the kids to explore and work on things of their own choosing.

“Through project-based learning,” Taylor points out, “the goal of the board, the administration and the staff is to enhance aspects of learning outside regulated testing.

“Makerspace provides real-world experience that will prepare our students for life after high school. Whether they choose the workplace or continuing education, our students will be able to successfully make that transition.”

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