Friday, November 13, 2015

Setting Up a STEAM Lab

We started our makerspace in our school media center during the 2014-2015 school year.

I teach information and literacy skills during regular media classes during four blocks of each day. Classes regularly use the media center’s computer lab during four blocks of the day.  These overlap but we are at opposite ends of the media center. The media center, computer lab, makerspace, and I are all available for flexible during parts of the day. Last year I ran into the problem of teachers wanting to use the makerspace but the media center being too full to always accommodate that.  Some teachers do borrow materials.

Our assistant principal took a few of us to a LEGO Symposium in May. She mentioned that she would love to have a STEAM lab and would love to have that as an encore class time like music, art, PE, etc.

Fast forward to this past week. We are blessed to have been able to purchase some K’Nex kits at half off, then my DonorsChoose project was funded, and then we received a Bright Ideas grant for robotics and coding materials. All in a week’s time! My principal and I were chatting on the way to the Bright Ideas luncheon and she said we could use a room for a STEAM Lab!

This room has served various functions over the last few years.  I first envisioned a room for teachers with resources for them to use: professional books, book sets, room for planning.  It then became a tutoring room.  It also houses miscellaneous resources from several departments.  The best part of this room is that it is near the media center.

And so we have begun the task of renovating this space into a STEAM lab.

Here is my current plan of attack:

  1.  Inventory current resources
  2.  Research other STEAM labs
  3.  Get teacher and student input
  4.  Decide upon needs
  5.  Make a plan
  6. Gather volunteers
  7. Set up room
  8. Share a calendar for sign-ups
  9. Train teachers and students
  10. Add and replenish supplies to keep up interest

I ran into Staples last night and saw some clearance storage containers that are the right size. The salesperson and I started talking and he was very proud of his alma mater’s pioneering and award-winning STEM lab just up the road in a neighboring county. I looked it up when I got home and saw the $500,000 price tag.

I must admit that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Imagine my luck when I was participating in an Imagination Chapters Google Hangout after school and there was a school architect in today’s session! Jeff from Cincinnati recommended the book Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration by Scott Doorley.  He also suggested using whiteboard paint on the walls and even using five gallon buckets as seats.  They are not only economical but they also work as storage.

One thing that really stood out to me during today’s GHO session was his question, “How do we make school irresistible for children?”  I often see a similarly themed comment on Twitter: “If students had a choice, would they come to your class?”

I have no doubt that children will want to come to our future STEAM lab.

In the meantime, I have some reading and research to do.

Here’s a reading list to help you get started as well.

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