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WE Innovate: Makerspace at Scholls Heights Elementary School

Organization, materials and freedom to create. These are the three key elements of a great Makerspace, according to Scholls Heights Library Instructional Technology (LITT) Teacher Carrie Kunert.

What is a Makerspace? A story by Diana Rendina in the Journal of the American Association of School Librarians may put it best. "A Makerspace is a place where students explore, create, tinker, play and imagine. Makerspaces are about the students, not the stuff."

The Scholls Heights Makerspace is located in what was formerly the library workroom. "It already had electricity and shelving, and it was separate from the library, so we didn't have to worry if we got a little noisy," says Kunert.

She set about transforming the room, cleaning out the space and buying a number of containers. "Then I got the word out that we wanted to start gathering items," says Kunert. She typed up a letter listing items like paper, egg cartons, recyclables and craft items, and sent it out to the parent community. "I have people coming in every day with bags of recycling or items from their house."

Kunert also received a grant from the Beaverton Education Foundation to purchase high-tech items like robotics, Osmos and Makey Makey kits. "But to be completely honest, the things that the kids use the most are our recycling and craft items," says Kunert.

Last year, Kunert invited classes to visit the Makerspace to conduct inquiry and design-based experiments. Teachers are also able to schedule visits to the Makerspace with their classes, depending on their unit of study.

This year, the school started a "Maker Monday" program. Every teacher has five passes to give to students each week. On Mondays, the selected students from each grade level get to spend their recess creating in the Makerspace. Each grade level gets a turn. Kunert says Maker Monday has been a big hit with the kids. "Teachers report that kids walk in the door first thing and want to know who gets to go to Maker Monday."

Above all, Kunert says the Makerspace brings out the creativity and inventiveness of the students. "I love the problem-solving. A student will have a project and try to figure out how something is going to go together. They have the time to figure it out and if something fails, it's no big deal, we move on and try something else. At first, they were apprehensive and you could tell they hadn't had the freedom to play around with materials. They were afraid to make mistakes initially, and now they're not."