Makerspaces expanding STEM opportunities in rural schools
- Organizations like Future Ready Schools are helping rural districts, which tend to face an array of digital equity concerns, embrace makerspaces to bolster their STEM offerings, according to EdTech: Focus on K-12.
- In many cases, these efforts have also served to benefit the surrounding community, such as when students at Montana's Corvallis High School created air sensors to gather data and address local air pollution from forest fires and wood-burning stoves — an effort supported by a grant from Montana State University.
- Cited as crucial to success are ensuring a well-defined process that outlines student and teacher roles are in place, as well as gaining community buy-in and keeping in mind that maker spaces can be as high- or low-tech as needed as long as they enable creative and collaborative thought in a safe environment.
Perhaps the first thing to come to mind when thinking about makerspaces is the 3D printer. And while that tool has served to enable creative experimentation in such environments, they don't necessarily have to be that advanced. Art classes are their own sort of makerspace, as eSchool News has noted, and even items like paper towel rolls can contribute to making for young students. At Berthold Academy, a Montessori in Reston, VA, for example, young students tasked with putting together their own Raspberry Pi computers were given materials like cardboard to create the casing for their hardware, rather than being limited to a straight-from-the-box design.
Finding ways for makerspaces to benefit the local community can serve dual purposes beyond simply providing STEM opportunities. These types of experiential lessons can also provide students with examples of past work to list on resumes for future work. Finding these opportunities to tie lessons to the real world, which can be as complex as helping to create a prosthetic hand, can serve as great PR to maintain community support in addition to helping secure funding for expansion or for similar spaces elsewhere in the state.
- EdTech: Focus on K-12 Thanks to Makerspaces, Rural Schools Can Teach STEM Skills Too
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