St. Margaret Students Get Inventive With New Makerspace Program
Students at St. Margaret Primary School in Buzzards Bay have started a hands-on STEM-based program that encourages young students to be inventors while offering them a safe place to make mistakes.
St. Margaret is a Catholic private school on Main Street that serves students in preschool through 4th grade.
The Makerspace program is a class that meets every other week and provides students with the materials and support to create and invent. Every few sessions, students are given a new project to work on.
Principal Elizabeth Hutchison said that one of the sections asked students to create a water bottle holder that would attach to their chairs. Teacher Laureen Fish said that a variety of materials such as plastics and fabrics were made available to the students, who then had to invent their water bottle holders.
The way that students at different ages approached the project varied, Ms. Fish said. Fabric materials appealed more to the preschool students whereas plastics were the material of choice for older children.
Other projects have included simple hand-sewing activities and the use of a 3-D pen to draw wearable eyeglass frames.
Ms. Fish said that every grade level is given the same problem to solve, though the approach to the problem might vary depending on the grade level. For example, preschool students may get more one-on-one help than an older student.
Looking ahead, students will be looking at woodworking and the use of a 3-D printer. Ms. Fish said that with the printer, older students may have more freedom with what they create than preschoolers, who may be using a pre-set design to construct a marble run.
The new curriculum has been a hit with students, Ms. Fish said.
“I’ve never had quieter Makerspace classrooms,” she said. “They are so intent in what they’re doing.”
In addition to giving students the freedom to create, the program also gives them a safe place to make mistakes, said Head of Schools Christopher Keavy.
“One challenge we’re hoping to address is creating conditions for failure,” he said. “Perfectionism is a major problem for schools.”
He said that when students create something that does not work correctly or does not solve the problem at hand, it creates the opportunity for students to learn from those mistakes and try another approach.
“There’s no one right answer,” he said.
The new curriculum has also helped to strengthen the school community by allowing the older children to come into the classroom when the younger children are there so that they can help out.
Mr. Keavy said that the program has been made possible through a grant from the Carney Family Charitable Foundation. The Solution Seed Grant provided the school with the funds to purchase the equipment and supplies being used in the classroom. The grant also funded teacher training and the time that teachers needed to write the curriculum.
Moving forward, the program will be funded by the district.
With this being a pilot year, Mr. Keavy said that the program will evolve as they learn what does and does not work and what could be done better.
“We’re still in the beginning stages,” he said.
Sandi M. Duxbury, the vice president of marketing and corporate partnerships for the Catholic School Alliance, said that the program is being rolled out in most schools across the Fall River Diocese.
The Makerspace curriculum will set students up to be successful as they continue their education in to the middle and high school levels, she said.
“Having three- and four-year-olds with access to this technology is amazing,” Ms. Duxbury said, adding that the skills they are learning now will help them as they transition into kindergarten and beyond.