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Makerspace program takes off at Glenvar

Glenvar student Claire Rutledge tests out robotic cubes during a Makerspace lesson. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Glenvar student Claire Rutledge tests out robotic cubes during a Makerspace lesson. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Sometimes, stepping outside of a traditional classroom setting is all it takes to get creative energy flowing. Staff and teachers at Glenvar Elementary School are thrilled that their students now have the opportunity to do just that through the school’s new Makerspace program.

The program focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills and project-based learning. A classroom at the school is divided into different stations that students rotate between, allowing them to visually and physically work through problems.

“It has STEM materials, but it’s more inventive and creative,” said Lisa Coleman, principal. “It’s learning beyond the books. It’s a chance for kids to collaborate with other children to create, invent, design and learn in new ways.”

Coleman first started working on acquiring a Makerspace program for the school in January, and said an open house was held for parents in August.

“They love it. Their children come home and tell them what they’re doing,” Coleman said. “I’m so passionate about the space.”

Tina Coffey, and instructional technology resource teacher for Roanoke County Schools, is the individual behind the creative projects. She works with three different schools in Roanoke County to incorporate technology into the classroom.

Tina Coffey, and instructional technology resource teacher, join in on the fun. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Tina Coffey, and instructional technology resource teacher, join in on the fun. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.

Each grade level at Glenvar Elementary visits the Makerspace classroom at least once a week, with teachers able to schedule classroom times online. Coding, sewing, woodworking and robotics are a few examples of the projects students get to try their hands at.

Each grade level has different lessons, and Coffey said she often tries to incorporate their regular classroom lessons into their Makerspace sessions.

Early last Monday morning, it was a first grade classrooms’ turn. The lesson broke down difficult topics in ways young students could explore. Throughout the morning, they learned about music basics and robotics, among many other activities.

“It’s nice to have this space,” said their teacher, Kelly Henderson, who also has children who attend the school. “It’s nice that it is a separate classroom, because all of the materials are in here.”

Kim Booth is Glenvar Elementary School’s librarian and media specialist, and spends much of her time helping out in the space as well. On Monday, she was busy helping students construct spinning tops out of old, donated CDs.

Coffey said many of her ideas come from online forums and museums. Robotics activities seem to be a student favorite.

“There’s a lot of the robotics stuff in the ed-tech community,” Coffey said. “They’re playing with the basic cubes right now, but there are other cubes that do mathematical functions. The preschoolers can use them and then the fifth graders can use them at different levels.”

“I mean really, the possibilities are endless,” Coffey added.

Kelly Henderson's first grade class was excited to begin their Makerspace lesson.
Kelly Henderson’s first grade class was excited to begin their Makerspace lesson.
Glenvar is one of the few schools in the area to offer the program. Coffey said many students attend Makerspace afterschool programs, summer camps and workshops, and she is hoping the program will continue to grow.

Glenvar relies on supply donations to keep the program going. To see what is needed, visit http://www.edlinesites.net/pages/Glenvar_Elementary/News/Makerspace.

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