Category Archives: Makerspace

Spotlight on Meadowbrook’s “Design Thinking” Program

“Design Thinking at Meadowbrook is about synergy, ingenuity, and stick-to-itiveness,” explains academic-advancement director Kristen Haugen. “We’re encouraging our students to tackle big ideas with big integrative solutions and to take bold action instead of holding back. To fail fast and try, try again. Also to seek out feedback that makes the product better. Basically how to be global learners in our modern, global society.”

WP_20170302_004For art teacher Becky Blumenthal, Meadowbrook’s Makerspace Studio is a launchpad for hands-on projects that bring classroom lessons to life. When her 6th-grade students were studying Roman culture in their social-studies class, Mrs. Blumenthal had them build columns with dixie cups and find out how many such columns it would take to balance trays that would successfully support a student’s weight. For Egyptian culture, the class’s task was to replicate cave paintings using dirt, clay, charcoal, and berries—as well as to mummify a hot dog! Younger grades made compasses for orienteering; minted coins using plaster and clay; created maps of imaginary islands using found objects; wove textiles with recycled fabric; and made their own paper.

“Seeing students get so excited and so focused on their Makerspace creations is what being a Design Thinking teacher is all about,” Mrs. Blumenthal says. “We start with an open-ended problem, we embrace new ways of thinking about the problem, and then we test and rework to solve it. This kind of inventive problem-solving is preparing our kids for the jobs of the future. Makerspace shows them how to adapt and be fluid thinkers.”

Over in the Science Room, science teacher Janice Mockaitis also teaches through the lens of a multidisciplinary, Design Thinking framework. Mrs. Mockaitis is on the cutting edge of the garden-to-table movement, with an ample vegetable garden where students prepare the soil; plant seeds; tend to the growing plants; harvest carrots, watermelons, pumpkins, etc.; and enjoy eating their produce while simultaneously studying its nutritional value. Additionally, she garden to table spinachis expertly trained in the curriculum of Engineering is Elementary (EiE), which fosters engineering and technological literacy with an emphasis on math skills. And Mrs. Mockaitis collaborates with the renowned Fox Chase Cancer Center’s “Immersion Science Program” to bring real-world medicine into the classroom. “Our students draw on all the components of STEM/STEAM to investigate the world around them, whether that be inside school, out in the garden, throughout our 16-acre property and beyond,” Mrs. Mockaitis says. “We are constantly analyzing how science connects to other academic subjects and to the world at large. I feel proud of how far Meadowbrook’s Design Thinking program has come and how many exciting developments still lie ahead of us.”

Hour of code projectSpeaking of the path forward, let’s turn to Meadowbrook’s Computer Lab where 5th graders and 3rd graders are discovering the brave new world of robotics and coding through their very own Ozobots. Mrs. Haugen leads the older group in development of an addition-fact game (ultimately to be played by 1st graders), while the younger level creates a Halloween-inspired haunted path and then narrates the story to go with it. “Coding with bots is a perfect activity for our Design Thinking program,” Mrs. Haugen says. “It links the hands-on, real-world application of technology with the critical human value of empathy. Our kids are designing for others and putting themselves in the shoes of the end user. They’re coding for humanity—and having a blast. So are we as educators!”

written by Khyber Oser

World Maker Faire

maker spaceMrs. Becky Blumenthal, Meadowbrook art teacher and director of maker space attended the 8th annual World Maker Faire at the Hall of Science, in Queens New York September 22-24. This event was billed as the greatest show and tell on earth and that was an excellent description! The goal of the Maker Movement is to create more makers, or people who create as well as consume. Mrs. Blumenthal’s goal is to inspire our children to think creatively, push through obstacles and become life-long learners. Picasso said “All children are Artists.” Mrs. Blumenthal says, “All children can be makers. It takes only curiosity and exposure to take something apart and put it back together in a new way or for a new purpose.” Mrs. Blumenthal continues, “As part of our maker space program, we can peak their interest in fields that before now may not have been seen as fun by a wide range of people.”

At the Faire, it was hot and crowded but the energy was amazing, and all who attended were excited about innovations in health care, sustainability, food, crafting, robotics, and electronics. There were hands on activities and play zones and giant fire breathing machines. A chair was turned into a musical instrument, and clothing lit up for nighttime use. maker space4

maker space2At Meadowbrook, we are excited for Mrs. Blumenthal to bring this to our children and she is excited too. As she says, “The best thing about my position is I don’t have to stay grounded for long. We touch ground then bounce off to allow for creativity, exposure and hard work to lead our learning! It’s a great time to be in the STEAM fields and I’m so excited to bring that enthusiasm to your children!”maker space3

Fourth Grade Makerspace

fourth graders in the makerspace
Fourth graders in the makerspace

Four years ago, fourth grade started an in-class project that brought our Geography studies to life. During those first three years, we developed Secret Island Maps (SIMs) onto poster board. We utilized geography features that included the map legend, compass rose, map scale, natural and man-made features.

This year, along with the magnificent help of Mrs. Becky Blumenthal and her Makerspace, we are able to create our SIMs projects in a three-dimensional format. We are using recycled materials and different odds & ends that will help the students design their islands.

The students this year are extremely excited and busy creating their islands in groups of two or three. Visit our website to see more pictures.

The Meadowbrook School is proud to have introduced a makerspace to the community this year.  Makerspaces are basically community centers with tools. We plan on growing our makerspace to combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling Meadowbrook students to design, prototype and create works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to students working alone.  With the right tools and encouragement our students will be on the forefront of this new phenomenon. Check back frequently to see what our students can do!

Makerspace at Meadowbrook

makerspace2The band of pre-historic humans set out on an important mission.  Without the sharpest stones securely attached to the ends of their spears, their village might not survive night time visits from animals 10 times their size. Understanding the importance of their mission, they searched the forests and grasslands, finding ideal natural objects for use in defense, hunting, and communication. Elated at their findings, the band returned to their cave for a celebration, recording the history of their success with their new tools on the cave wall.

It’s 2016 and this band is the sixth grade class at the Meadowbrook School.  They are learning about pre-historic times and how humans lived in harsh and challenging conditions, using only the natural world around them to survive. To complement their learning and give them the opportunity to feel like those ancient people, the brand new Makerspace at Meadowbrook provides them the materials and time to create their own tools and document their historic mission using cave drawings. Throughout the year, the class will progress through history, using the Makerspace to create tools from each civilization and experiencing the realities, challenges and successes of progress through time.

The fourth grade is also hands-on the Makerspace, experiencing the challenges and satisfaction of creating their own cloth, like many of the immigrants from their own families did when they arrived in the United States. Not only does this give the students exciting projects and new skills to develop, but they are connecting in a physical way to their family’s past, imagining what it must have been like to sit and weave for small amounts of money day after day upon arrival in a foreign land.  This entire experience builds skills, teamwork, and the empathy and consideration of others that has always been the Meadowbrook way.

The Makerspace, run by Mrs. Becky Blumenthal, is a new initiative at Meadowbrook designed to give students hands-on experiences that bring their classroom learning to life.  Building on long traditions of authentic career experiences like the second grade post office, fourth grade travel agency, and hands-on engineering of windmills in science classes, the Makerspace will encourage students to work as a community, using their creativity and problem solving skills to accomplish complex tasks. There is no “right answer” or grading in the Makerspace, making it a truly open forum for students to bring their most innovative and forward thinking ideas to light.

Even better, the Makerspace is a collaborative effort between students and faculty at Meadowbrook, with the two groups working together to define a unique Makerspace that will fit the needs of Meadowbrook students as individual inventors.  Meadowbrook has always been a school of integration, with science, art, and culture intertwined in school-wide efforts to teach students that learning is three dimensional. The Makerspace will take learning to the fourth dimension, providing the students time to explore, create, and learn as bands of survivors on a mission to take learning to the next civilization of progress.

Makerspace materials are being assembled on a continuous basis, so if you have anything that might be useful for making tools, using the tools, creating cloth or using it to make other things (e.g. sewing machines, knitting tools, etc). As the year moves forward, students will reach modern times, with telephones, computers, robots, and technology a primary focus.  Technology will be a major component of the Makerspace, so anything you might have will be welcome!  See Mrs. Blumenthal after assembly on Fridays to coordinate.