The Making of a Makerspace

A child who plays with blocks may be a future architect. A child who marvels at computer parts may be a future engineer. And a child who learns through hands-on experiences will learn how to navigate the world. Just like a book opens up a world of possibilities, a Makerspace invites a child to create those possibilities and realize those dreams.

If You Build It… They Will Make

Technology is constantly evolving. In keeping up with providing a 21st Century education for students and offering meaningful, interactive ways of learning, Mr. Gary Stern, Head of School, is always interested in ideas that will enhance students’ educational experience.  The idea of building a Makerspace at High Point was brought to him by Mr. Jason Moore, Director of Technology and Innovation.

Why a Makerspace?

A Makerspace is a place where students experience and gain an appreciation of the value of collaboration in a unique, hands-on way. It’s a space where students are encouraged to imagine and then create a physical or digital item as a team. This collaborative approach to learning provides students with an optimal venue for interdisciplinary STEAM-based opportunities that integrate science, technology, art and design, engineering, and math and prepare students with a foundation for success in high school and beyond.

 “Makerspaces and the Maker Movement are part of a larger idea known as creative education. Creative education stems from the fact that students coming into our schools today are different from those of the past. Not only do they see the world differently, they learn differently, and they understand things differently. Fostering creativity in schools is an essential part of the education process for today’s learners. As teachers, we are preparing these learners for jobs that may not even exist in a world where information is instantly accessible anywhere. The importance of providing students with the skills to operate in this world means we need to provide students with real-life learning opportunities. 

Collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking are all skills that are more important than ever for our students. A Makerspace and a Maker Mindset provide teachers with the tools to allow students to establish and nurture these skills. Our new Makerspace on campus is part of a larger idea of a maker program that allows creativity to emerge and grow in any space on campus. The Makerspace empowers our teachers and students to experiment with tools and materials they may never have had the opportunity to use before. It complements and enhances our STEAM program.  The Makerspace can be utilized in conjunction with High Point’s upgraded science lab, technology center, and art room to provide exciting and engaging environments that facilitate discovery, creation, and investigation.

We are excited by the possibilities this space will provide and cannot wait to see what ideas flow from students as they explore and engage in projects beyond the four walls of a more traditional learning space.”

– Jason Moore, Director of Technology and Innovation

Mr. Stern remarked upon the value a Makerspace will have on learning.  

“All projects begin with a dream. Reflecting upon what is, what is needed, and ultimately what is possible. Such was the journey of the making of High Point’s Makerspace.

Our students’ creativity was clearly palpable. Students were creators, designers, and innovators. These two-dimensional designs lacked a venue where they could be built and come to life in three dimensions. Teachers and staff harkened back to the days where “shop class” was an integral part of the curriculum, where we constructed purposeful projects with a combination of our hands and our imagination. We needed a venue in which students could not just dream and design, but one in which they had access to the tools and resources to make these dreams and designs a reality.”

– Mr. Gary Stern, Head of School

Mr. Stern presented the idea to the Board of Trustees whose members enthusiastically agreed with proceeding to create this space. Mr. James Bonaccorso, a parent and Co-Chair of High Point’s Board of Trustees Buildings and Grounds Committee, worked to identify the best location for the new Makerspace. It was ultimately determined that a P.E. storage shed could be repurposed and transformed into the new Makerspace. IMG_0137Once the location and architectural plans were chiseled in stone, it was now time to reach out to the dedicated and supportive parent community to help renovate and fill the Makerspace with the tools necessary to make it a success. Mrs. Christina Pasten, Director of Development, championed this exciting upgrade to High Point’s facility. This new space will enable students to engage in learning through risk-taking, tinkering, and discovery, translating across various subject matters and projects complementing how High Point prepares students for high school and beyond.

“In the same way we ask our parents to prioritize their giving and support of High Point, we are prioritizing the needs of our students and preparing them for a successful future.”

– Mrs. Christina Pasten, Director of Development at High Point Academy

Funding for the Makerspace began early in the 2017-2018 school year through High Point’s Annual Fund. The Annual Fund has always provided for key projects at the school, and it was clear that the creation of a Makerspace would impact every student at High Point. This important project was not only at the fore of the Annual Fund, but it was also the focus at High Point’s Gala. During the Gala, the High Point community was invited to celebrate, bid on t auction items, and engage in a paddle raise to assist in building High Point’s future. The theme was Rock of Ages celebrating the hair styles and fashions of the 1980’s. The High Point community responded – not only with their awesome outfits, but with their generous support of the school. The focus of these fundraising efforts was earmarked for the creation of a new Makerspace. It took the summer for the new space to be built. As students prepared to return to campus, excited for the new school year, to meet their new teachers, and renew friendships, 60” technology screens were being hung, drawers of tools, glue, screws, and a variety of materials were organized and made ready for students to discover and use in the Makerspace. It was time to introduce the space to staff and students.

Makerspace in Action

The Makerspace nicknamed “The Maker Shed,” was designed to allow students and teachers to experiment, play, and discover at age-appropriate levels. For younger students in Kindergarten through 2nd grade, this space will provide an extension of the classroom and the art room in terms of age-appropriate materials and tools. The focus for students at this level is on the process of making and design thinking. The concepts and ideas taught may include using paper circuits and building 3D shapes from scrap materials. As students move to 3rd and 4th grades, they will be introduced to a new array of age-appropriate tools. Students will experiment with cardboard cutting and building tools. Before beginning these units, students will be given safety training on the use of each tool and will always be required to wear safety gear. Use of these tools will be under supervision of an adult. Students from 5th grade onward will be afforded the chance to use more advanced tools. Beginning in 5th grade, students will have access to power hand tools such as cordless drills and drivers, jig saws, and cordless circular saws as well as the more standard hand tools like screwdrivers, hammers, and hand saws. By 7th and 8th grade, the full array of tools and machines will be made available to students in the Makerspace. These tools include the cordless Mitre Saw, band saw, drill press, hot wire foam cutter, soldering irons, all cordless power tools, 3D Laser Printer, and Cricut cutting machine. Prior to using any of these tools, students will undertake proper safety training and testing. Every student will be required to attend a safety training session for each tool and then obtain 100% on an online safety quiz. Safety equipment will be worn by all students and the use of any power tools will only be allowed under the supervision of an adult. These sessions will be part of the regular TIDE curriculum and be a precursor to all activities in the Makerspace.

If you Make it… They will Make

The doors were officially opened in October when Mr. Zack Davis, the New Visual Arts and Design Teacher at High Point, brought his 7th and 8th grade students to discover the Makerspace. They were the first to use the space in conjunction with an art project they had begun earlier in the month. After a successful first class in the Makerspace, Mr. Davis shared the following message:  

“3D Design, an enrichment course for 7th and 8th graders at High Point, accessed the Makerspace to make additions to an ongoing sculpture project. The fully equipped Makerspace allowed students to construct more elaborate creations and develop new ways of approaching the challenge.

Mr. Moore has designed a space that promotes collective thinking and collaboration. He has made the interior arrangement logistically functional through a modular approach, giving students the license to expand into the surrounding areas. The tool collection, technology, and general accessibility to working surfaces make for a highly functional studio environment.  

Judging by the focus and enthusiasm the students displayed, the new Makespace is loaded with potential.”

– Mr. Zack Davis, Visual Arts and Design Teacher

Mr. Davis’ art enrichment students were excited and engaged by using tools and materials they don’t normally have available to them.

“It was really fun to work with all the materials and to have a designated space to work on our project. I liked the way the space was set up, especially how they have the electric cords hanging which makes it really easy to use a glue gun!”

– Kendall, 8th Grade Student

“It was great to have so many materials right there. And different materials. Stuff we wouldn’t normally get to work with.”

– Sofia, 8th Grade Student

As the year progresses, more classes will use this space as teachers creatively re-imagine their lessons. The Makerspace will allow teachers to devise new and engaging ways to help students learn in the ever-changing technological 21st Century. The future has been brought to High Point Academy thanks to its close-knit and dedicated community. The possibilities opened up are endless. The students of High Point can now dream up ideas and see them come to life in the new Makerspace. What better lesson is there?

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