Last year I was asked the question, if money wasn’t an issue, what would you do at Maquoketa Valley with technology? “Start a Makerspace,” was my response. A Makerspace is a common area where children are able to engineer, explore, tinker and discover through creative building opportunities. It is a DIY (Do it Yourself) space where kids create, learn, and invent, and it is the newest form of technology being utilized at MV.
I was introduced to the idea of a Makerspace during my first year as MV’s technology coach, and last year spent time researching and grant writing. Last spring, we graciously received two grants. The Foundation for the Future of Delaware County awarded MV $2,500 to purchase Makerspace materials, and The Dubuque Racing Association awarded MV $2,800 to purchase a 3D printer.
Both of these grants are giving MV the opportunity to work towards our technology vision:
Our vision at Maquoketa Valley is to ensure learning that is engaging, challenging, and focused. This includes integration of technology into classroom learning in meaningful ways that promote development of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking skills. We will encourage problem-solving and build perseverance; promote ethical, safe, and respectful online use and behavior; and provide critical technology skills to be successful and productive 21st century citizens. In the Makerspace specifically, students are learning that failure the first time is okay because they learn from their mistakes, and then tweak and adjust to improve their designs. I’m excited to see all the projects throughout the year!
During their next Makerspace lesson, K-5th grade students will be completing Halloween themed projects including building: jack-o-lanterns out of cardboard; bone bridges using Q-tips, popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners; The Tower of Terror out of marshmallows and toothpicks; monsters out of styrofoam cups, noodles, and more. All of these projects allow students to engineer a creative project. Along with Makerspace, there is a lot of other technology being used in our elementary schools. At our elementary schools, we have enough ipads, chromebooks, and macbook airs so each student could work on a machine at the same time. Teachers use online resources and apps almost daily to enhance the students’ learning. Students in grades 3 through 5 are also using a new keyboarding program from Learning.com to increase speed and accuracy in typing.
The 7th and 8th graders (and Mr. Moenck) are using study hall time to utilize the Makerspace. The first challenge they are working on is creating a working drawbridge that holds the weight of 25 pennies, using only 10 pencils, 3 feet of tape, 3 feet of string, 4 rubber bands, 2 straws, 2 pipe cleaners, and 1 piece of cardboard cut to 3” x 14”. It amazes me that with the same materials, the projects can look so different. Middle school students will have a chance to share their projects during WIN time.
In addition to the Makerspace and the computers at Maquoketa Valley, 5th and 6th graders each have a technology class that introduces them to a lot of different technology. 5th graders use Code.org to learn computer programming skills. 6th grade just finished their first Makerspace project using cardboard and other raw materials to build keyboard covers so other students in the district can practice keyboarding without seeing the keys. 6th graders will also be introduced to iMovie and making movies with green screen technology, Sphero robots and programming, 3D designing and printing, coding, and much more. 7th and 8th grade students participate in a pre Engineering course where students learn robotics.
The High School has a variety of new technology initiatives going on this year as well. All 9-12th grade students are 1:1. Students are assigned a laptop and pick this machine up in the morning and return it at the end of the day. Students also have the opportunity in the high school to take some new technology courses including a web design course and a computer programming course.
All in all, Maquoketa Valley is doing great things in regards to technology to get students ready for the world around us.