Maker-centered learning has been part of the Park curriculum for decades. (Just ask any alum who remembers their House Project from Grade VI.) But in recent years, this kind of hands-on learning has become full-fledged design-thinking projects, as well as an opportunity to incorporate robotics and coding.
This year, the Technology Department added a new full-time Academic Technology Specialist to the team to meet the growing curricular needs of the School. Kimberly Fogarty, who joined the Park community in September, has jumped into her new role with both feet. With Kimberly’s guidance, students in all three divisions have embarked on projects where they can utilize design-thinking and maker skills. Here are three examples:
In their new “To the Rescue” project, second graders are combining design skills with language arts and science in a new take on fairy tales. Student teams are given a challenge: 1) pick a fairy tale, 2) identify problems that various characters have, 3) determine which ones offer engineered solutions, and 4) build a prototype, which includes at least one simple machine they are learning about in science.
Students designed clever and effective solutions using pulleys, levers, and wheels/axles to escape, assist, and protect their characters. For instance, one team designed an elaborate drawbridge to help the Billy Goats Gruff foil the troll under the bridge. Another team designed a well with a pulley-drawn bucket to help Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughter get water for her garden.
This year’s fifth grade students completed Park’s first robotic survey with Kimberly Fogarty and Middle Division Science Teacher, Meg McLean. The students were asked to define “robot” and then program and evaluate the suitability of robots for different tasks. After introducing the fifth graders to several types of robots and programming apps (Dash by Wonder Workshop with the Wonder app; Sphero SPRK+ and Ollie by Sphero controlled with the SpheroEDU app; and Rolling Spider drone by Parrot with the Tickle app), Kimberly and Megan asked the students to discover patterns among the different programming apps and anticipate patterns in new programming tools.
The final design challenge was to build obstacle courses for the various robots to participate in a relay. Working in small groups, students designed a robotics challenge (with certain specifications) for another group to solve, then solved another group’s challenge using a different robot. Challenge mats were placed end to end with each leg of the relay forming a different challenge, and the robots completing their tasks in rapid succession.
Janice So’s Grade VI Latin students researched Latin and Greek-named constellations and the ancient myths behind them for their fabulae in stellis (“stories in the stars”) project. Charged with representing their constellation with lights, they designed, built, and tinkered to create a physical representation with circuitry and LED lights. In this process, they learned about circuits, used materials such as copper tape, LED light bulbs, batteries, hot and cold solder, paint, and foam board. Lastly, students filmed green-screen presentations of their constellations, associated myths, and other interesting facts (click here to watch a video about Cassiopeia.)
Looking Ahead to Park’s New State-of-the-Art Makerspace
Currently, “making” happens in classrooms, in hallways, in project areas, and in the Library. Over the past year and a half, the scene shop underneath the theater has doubled as a makerspace for Middle and Upper Division students. This summer, in order to support the growing needs of Park’s student makers, and to facilitate the implementation of Park’s Strategic Plan that calls for increased applied learning at Park through a two-pronged approach of design thinking and project-based learning, the School will convert the existing conference room and adjacent corridor into a new state-of-the-art facility, designed and equipped to support leading and innovative practices in making curriculum. Younger students will continue to benefit from the Library makerspace (renovated this academic year) and the multiple maker carts throughout the building.
Kimberly will continue to reach out into the community to integrate making into the classrooms and curricula in meaningful ways. But, beginning in September 2018, be sure to visit her in the new Makerspace!
In preparation for and in anticipation this new Makerspace, a committee of Park educators came together to formulate the following purpose statement:
The purpose of maker-centered learning @ Park is to empower our community to #MakeThingsBetter. At The Park School, where students are known and valued as individuals, making offers students opportunities to develop empathy and agency as problem finders and creative problem solvers. In addition, Park’s Habits of Scholarship and Citizenship (curiosity, grit, gratitude, zest, and personal responsibility) are nurtured by making at Park.