Minds Under Construction

It’s wonderful to see a school turn itself around. For years the city of Duquesne, a formerly robust mill town outside of Pittsburgh, had a declining population with a dwindling student enrollment. This year the school experienced a 10% gain in student population. It may not be directly related, but the focus on Active Learning and two STEAM grants through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit to create Maker Spaces have brought a new mindset and energy to the school.

Ani Martinez, the Outreach Coordinator for Remake Learning, organized a field trip for interested educators to Duquesne. Ms. Samantha Utley, an Instructional Coach working in the Creation Station, and Mr. Stan Whiteman, the Assistant Principal, shared elements of the recent success story. The focus was on the Creation Station, two former industrial arts rooms that housed a CADD classroom and a Wood Shop. Today they are vibrant, active learning spaces for grades K-3 and 4-6. The former CADD room now houses light tables for students to conduct scientific investigations, a series of water pods, reading areas, a 3D printer, and work areas. The former wood shop taps into the old work tables as STEAM investigation stations and provides a host of other technological opportunities.

While the two grants provided the funding to get the project off the ground, today the Dollar Store is the major supplier of materials. Every student during the week has an opportunity to spend time in the Creation Station. However, the focus on active learning doesn’t just happen the Creation Station. According to Stan Whiteman every student now has a device, providing a 1:1 opportunity. That means active learning happens in every classroom. The Creation Station becomes the place to expand and enhance ideas.

Samantha Utley shared a fifth grade project around the African nation of Sierra Leone. While students did their research on mud slides in the classroom, they had a chance to experience Sierra Leone virtually through a Google Expedition in the Creation Station. The students gained a real opportunity in critical thinking while expanding their global awareness.

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