Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Making to Learn

The following post was written by Laura Fleming who is the Media Specialist at my school.  It is also cross-posted at her blog Worlds of Learning.  Here Laura describes our philosophy and journey to create a Makerspace for our students. 

Setting up a Makerspace has been a priority of mine from the moment I started here at New Milford High School, and it’s already well on its way to being achieved. Having a school principal who provides the perfect mix of encouragement and autonomy has, of course, been a great help, but it has also been very much a team effort: the school’s tech team and custodians have been very supportive and cooperative, along with a diverse variety of students interested in ‘making’ experiences.

Makerbot (3D printer) that just arrived to NMHS

At the heart of the vision for my Makerspace is to develop the space and to provide resources and opportunities that will aid in promoting web literacy. These components encompass Mozilla's Web Literacy Standard.  The standard is make up of three key elements:  exploring, building and connecting and focuses on reading, writing and participating on the web.   

As it is shaping up so far, all students will have access to a Makerspace where they can collaborate on STEM-related concepts and ideas through lunchtime activities, independent study, and classroom collaborations.  The themes of my Makerspace include:

  • Robotics
  • Stop-Motion Animation
  • 3D Printing/Design
  • Hacking/Remixing the Web/Coding/COMPUTER PROGRAMMING
  • Molecular Gastronomy
  • Wearable Tech
  • Electricity/Papertronics
  • Polymers
  • Engineering Inventions

My intention is that instruction for students across the themes will make use of open-source options wherever possible. A good example will be Mozilla Webmaker, a suite of open-source tools dedicated to teaching digital skills and web literacy, as well as Scratch, which offers open-source programming for kids.

Visitors to both our physical and virtual Makerspaces are greeted with the following message:
"What is Worlds of Making @ NMHS? Well, that is up to you, the maker. This space, both physical and virtual, is a place for you to collaborate, hack, invent, share, create, make and do. You have been given the tools you need to get started, but where it goes is up to you. The world is your platform. The aim of our virtual space will be a place to guide students, to showcase their creations and to provide them with a virtual sandbox in which they can play and create." 
Our Makerspace will be stocked with:

NMHS students tinering with Legos

Our physical space will be an attempt to create an environment that encourages creativity and ideas in designing and constructing a wide variety of 3-D artifacts.

For example, we have provided computers designated for students specifically to disassemble and investigate.  We are building a Little Bits Bar in which students will have the opportunity to participate in using modular electronics to invent their own creations.  We will have a lego table in which students can bring STEM concepts to life. Our working computers are transparent so students can see their innards, perhaps gain an understanding of how the major components fit together, and begin to examine how they work.  Everything is hands-on and nothing is off-limits (within the obvious bounds of safety).  

Our Makerspace is about creating a genuine and committed culture of innovation at New Milford High School, encouraging tinkering, play and open-ended exploration for all students.

Student drawing on new SMART Board E70

And this is only the start – the concept will grow and grow, with new ideas being brought into the space over time.  Keep an eye on our Makerspace site at and also on Twitter for updates. 


  1. Awesome sauce.
    I love how you are moving your school forward. I wish we were moving in that direction ...

  2. Great drawing on the SMART Board E70! If your students are interested in creating SMART Notebook software widgets, please let us know. -Sam at SMART

  3. Very informative post. Keep up the good work. I would really look forward to your other posts
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