SOCSD librarians attend makerspace training

Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary librarian Elizabeth Lott tries out a band saw for the first time as part of makerspace training presented by the district Friday. (Photo by Charlie
Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

Librarians from the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District received extensive training in the burgeoning concept of makerspaces Friday.

The district plans to have a makerspace in each of its schools this year, and is using its libraries initially, emphasizing the library’s function as the center of the school. Makerspaces are spaces set aside for students and teachers to create, with media ranging from power tools to fabric, depending on the level of the students.Currently, Sudduth Elementary has a room designated as a makerspace, with other schools in the district adding the concept to their curriculum in different ways.

“We started at Sudduth this morning, where we actually created a makerspace for that school,” said SOCSD grants and innovative strategies specialist Brandi Burton. “That is going to be the plan for the entire district,to have a makerspace in each building eventually.”

One of the group’s stops was at The Idea Shop, a new makerspace in downtown Starkville tied to the Mississippi State University E-Center. While there, they were given the challenge to build a prototype of an instructional aid in approximately an hour. They were allowed to use any tool or material in the shop.

Armstrong Middle School librarian Diana Wileman-Bland, who has experience as a woodworker, began building a balance out of cedar wood to be used as an instructional tool for math teachers.

“What I want to do is after I make one, I want to find some scrap wood and let the kids make one,” Wileman-Bland said. “I’m at the middle school, so they should be able to do that.”

Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary librarians Elizabeth Lott and Linda LaFrance worked together to make a number string math answer key out of a piece of red string, scrap wood and small pom-poms. It was Lott’s first time operating a band saw.

Lott said the experience was a confidence booster for her.

“I had never done that before,” Lott said. I was a little nervous about it. It was a lot of fun.”

LaFrance said she hoped the experience would be helpful across the district.

“We’re trying to find ways to engage the children anyway, so anything we can do that they’re moving and touching, not just sitting there,” La France said.

Michael Lane, a student client specialist at The Idea Shop, said getting people interested in making and creating was often as simple as educating them on the proper use of tools.

“When people come in and want to design something, they don’t know how things are built, or how to use the equipment,” Lane said. “It’s very hard to imagine what you can build if you’ve never had experience with the actual stuff that builds it.”

Mississippi State Research and Curriculum Unit Project Manager Kenny Langley further explained the applications of makerspaces in the classroom.

“It’s constructivist methods where kids build things that they’re thinking about,” Langley said. “To me, it’s fascinating because you can kind of see the inner workings of their thoughts because they manifest physically. It’s all about raw materials and ideas, and then you can tie that to curriculum and standards.”