Middle School Maker Journey: Everything’s Going Well . . . We Think

In part six of his year-long series, Kevin Jarrett reflects on his middle school makerspace’s successes and growth opportunities, with an eye on the upcoming capstone projects.

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Kevin Jarrett shares the successes and challenges for a middle school TED program (Technology, Engineering, Design). Underlying all of the work is a focus on human-centered design.

See on Scoop.itUsing Technology to Transform Learning

Designing, Building and Iterating

[In many schools the opportunity to tackle the “E” – Engineering – in STEM is quite challenging. Here’s an example from Mindshift that outlines a program with Boeing that provides students with real world experiences to look at designing wind turbines. In the Pittsburgh area there are many districts integrating design challenges and activities into their curriculum. I’m working with the Energy innovation Center and Parkway Way Career and Technology Center in Pittsburgh to develop a series of design activities where students put on a consultant’s hat to address the design challenge.]


The design and engineering process is an important part of the Next Generation Science Standards, but it can be difficult for teachers to work in challenges that feel authentic and relevant in the real world. Several public school teachers in Seattle and Houston worked with Boeing engineers to develop engineering curriculum that both meets required standards and gives kids a chance to build something with their hands. The Teaching Channel documented some of the lessons in practice. In the video below, students in Houston are exploring concepts of lift and drag while designing wind turbines.

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Starting a School Makerspace from Scratch

[Colleen Graves has outlined the steps and resources to create a Makerspace for a K-12 learning environment in this Edutopia article. Here in Pittsburgh there’s a strong movement that came out of the work done by the LABS project at the Carnegie Library and the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh.]

JULY 16, 2015

Photo credit: Kevin Jarrett via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Photo credit: Kevin Jarrett via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

With the National Week of Making behind us, you might be ready to start a makerspace in your school — but not know where to start. Will purchasing a costly 3D printer and the latest robotics kit ensure learning and maker success? What are some steps to starting a successful makerspace from scratch?

Step 1: Immerse Yourself in Maker Education
Before you can build your own community of makers, you need to join one! Immerse yourself in makerspaces by joining a summer maker camp like Exploratorium’s Tinkering Fundamentals or the virtual Camp Google for cheap and easy STEM ideas, but most importantly: make stuff! Go to the public library or a community makerspace and learn Arduino, coding, etc. Some easy ways into coding are the Hour of Code and Scratch programming. Institute a family maker time at home and make low-tech, STEM-related crafts with little ones, like this balloon-propelled car or this balloon hovercraft.

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