By Clair Mays
Arkadelphia Public Schools
There is a new and exciting space this spring in the Peake Media Center. In the Fall of 2021, Peake Fifth Grade Teacher April Grace applied for and was awarded a Ross Mini-Grant through Dawson. This grant provided funding for the resources needed to install a Makerspace area in the Peake Elementary School Library.
A Makerspace is a collaborative STEM-based learning environment where students gather to create DIY projects, explore STEM activities, invent new things, and share ideas. Peake Media Specialist Charlotte DeWitt designed the area. Now, during students’ weekly visits to the library, they have the opportunity to not only enrich their literacy skills but also strengthen their understanding and interest in STEM-based learning.
DeWitt has developed a rotation for students that involves stations. Each station has either a STEM or literacy-based activity that students can explore and complete. DeWitt sets up a three-week cycle of three different activities. Each activity takes one weekly visit to complete. Usually, the three-week cycle includes two STEM-based activities and one literacy activity.
Using the Ross Mini-Grant, the library has been equipped with items such as the Magna-Tiles, Magtronix, Sphero SPRK+, Gravity Maze, Mental Box, Botzees, and Circuit Maze-an electronic current logic game.
Grace is thrilled to have the addition of a Makerspace in the library this year. Her students enjoy having access to a variety of STEM materials. She says, “Mrs. DeWitt is doing an amazing job providing engaging and hands-on lessons aligned to library standards, but now she is incorporating STEM materials into that experience.”
Grace and DeWitt expect to see a number of benefits from creating the Makerspace. Students involved regularly in STEM projects may likely develop an interest that has them actively seeking out and participating in activities that deepen their STEM skills and understanding. The hope is that students will be motivated to select higher-level STEM classes as they get into the secondary grade levels.
Grace also foresees the STEM activities impacting Peake students’ ability to learn science and math skills taught in their current classroom. Students receive reinforcement of the STEM standards they learn throughout the year as they complete the enrichment activities in the Makerspace.
At the end of April, Peake students will be taking the ACT Aspire state assessment which will test their knowledge of math and science state standards. The expectation is that Peake will see growth over the next few years in their science and math scores which can be linked to students having the opportunity to engage in the new Makerspace Center in the library.