The makerspace is real!

Debbie Harris

Debbie Harris is the director of educational technology at the Sager Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook, IL. Involved in Jewish education for over thirty years, she has an education degree from Northwestern University with a concentration in instructional media and a master’s degree in professional Jewish studies from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

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New makerspace

After a year of planning, after two years of teaching on a cart, after 25 years of being in educational technology, I’ve got a new home. We built a beautiful new makerspace over the summer! Right now, I’m teaching 3rd through 8th grade in there and it’s been a wild five weeks of school!

7th and 8th graders are pretty much on their own. They’ve got access to a Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore Air 2, a one-inch button maker, two Brother sewing machines and a variety of electronic and hand tools. We have eight iPads and eight MacBook Airs (why eight of each? I buy these open carts and they hold 16 devices). We’ve got fancy shmancy manual cardboard cutters and one even fancier electric Worx one that the kids fight over.

Right now, I’m teaching a 4th grade class, which has turned out to be a challenge. They’re too young to hang out in the makerspace for an hour twice a week on their own, and I’ve found that they can use some reinforcement of basic construction skills (gluing, cutting, folding, etc.), so we are making interactive books based on our reading of The School is Alive! (Eerie Elementary #1). I’m starting a new unit this week, and I’ll post the lessons as we do them.

Besides my regular classes, we reach out to classroom teachers to integrate into what they’re doing. In a couple of weeks, I’ll have 6th graders making shadow puppets and puppet theaters. Stay tuned for those lessons -we’re super excited!

Laser cut box
Learning to use the laser cutter by cutting simple boxes

Certainly the most exciting piece of equipment is our OMTech 50w Laser Cutter. So far, only members of the tech department have been using it, but we will be developing a micro-badging protocol for students who want to be able to run it. We’ve already made some amazing projects and can’t wait for it to be used by students and faculty.

The final piece of equipment (so far) is our Ender 3 v2 3D printer. To be fair, we didn’t really need a new 3D printers, as we already own and are incredibly happy with our two Ultimaker printers. However, I wanted one that students could put together and “own.” At its shockingly low price point, the Ender seemed to make sense. Two students have already put it together and are working on getting it calibrated.

Can’t wait to share lessons and strategies – stay tuned!