Written by Jillian Zappia
“Learning is less about acquiring or transmitting information than it is about collectively designing a world that is worth living in”. Edith Ackermann
Fostering skills through creative education
Maker-centered learning offers students a multifaceted education experience enabling them to develop creativity and innovation, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, build confidence, and learn the importance of collaboration, among many other learnings.
A maker encompasses anyone engaged in the act of creating, and this creative expression spans a countless array of activities. It encompasses diverse endeavors such as painting, computer programming, crafting furniture, creating a Halloween costume, developing applications, composing music, and countless other forms of creative expression and production.
Students learn that they are able to shape the world around them, that most of the things in our world have been designed, and that they have the ability to change them and re-design them to improve their lives, their communities, and the world.
At BFIS, our Vision for Learning calls us to engage and empower our students with creative and innovative skills in order to solve real-world challenges. In response, the elementary school and early childhood delved into Maker-Centered Learning providing professional development for teachers and immersing students in hands-on projects to help them develop these skills and dispositions.
Professional learning for teachers
Under the guidance of our Elementary School principal, a team including our Technology, Innovation, Design, and Engineering (TIDE) teacher, our Enrichment and Differentiation Coordinator, and our Technology and Innovation coach, provided professional development on Maker-Centered Learning and the design process. Our teachers engaged in various activities like take-apart from Harvard’s Project Zero, explored 3D printing with Tinkercad, evaluated school systems and spaces with Justice by Design, and even built robots using Hummingbird Micro Bit kits. These initiatives enriched our teachers’ understanding of the design process, and how it’s not just about learning to make, but making to learn.
Students inherently possess a predisposition for creativity and craftsmanship.
Through making, our scholars developed an understanding of concepts as they planned, made, evaluated, and improved their designs using a wide array of maker tools, including Hummingbird robotics kits, loose parts, Make-do cardboard building tools, and all sorts of recycled materials. Our early childhood learners created marble runs and designed their own airports and hospitals, while our kindergarten students recently constructed clean-up machines during their recycling unit.
First-grade students engaged in designing Carnaval costumes, as well as creating models of the Sun and Moon for stop-motion videos. Second-grade students explored the endless possibilities of a simple box, while third-grade students delved into the world of dinosaurs through take-apart activities. Fourth-grade students utilized micro bits, LEDs, sensors, and motors to create inventions for their explorers to make life easier at sea. Fifth graders used the Hummingbird kits and Dash Robots to explore themes in their book club books.
Our art classes also embraced maker-centered learning by conducting take-aparts inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, utilizing the elements of art.
The transformative impact of Maker-Centered Learning
Our dedicated teachers witnessed the transformative impact of maker-centered learning in their classrooms. Liz Jacobs, one of our first-grade teachers, reflected on the experience:
“Naming themselves ‘designers’ was like wearing a badge of honor. Students took the role quite seriously and were highly engaged, curious, creative, and reflective. It was astonishing for students to start with a design on paper and end with the physical creation being worn for all to see. That was powerful!”
Ms. Jacobs further highlighted the impact on students’ problem-solving, persistence, responsible risk-taking, and collaboration skills.
“The excitement and satisfaction in the classroom were palpable, with students continuously improving their designs, seeking inspiration from peers, and never giving up. They proudly call themselves designers and actively look for opportunities to engage in design during playtime. As educators, we are committed to providing more opportunities for our students to experience the design cycle and continue their growth as creators in the future.”
Maker-centered learning in Elementary is not merely an educational approach but a catalyst for shaping the next generation’s capacity to thrive in a dynamic world. This pedagogy equips students with an array of skills and mindsets that transcend traditional academic boundaries. By engaging in hands-on, creative, and problem-solving activities, students develop critical thinking, collaboration, innovation, and adaptability. Moreover, they cultivate a growth mindset, perseverance, and a strong sense of agency. These proficiencies empower them to confront not only the challenges of their daily lives but also complex local and global issues.