“It’s better than sitting on your phone… [You can] give back to people who are less fortunate and it’s nice knowing that you can give back to the community.” Savannah, a 9th grader at Berthoud High School, gave an honest answer for why she loves spending time in the school’s MakerSpace. Carin Barrett, Librarian and Social Studies teacher at BHS, started this program last school year as a way to teach “Philanthropy as Civic Engagement” and, most importantly, kindness.
MakerSpace is a popular and growing program throughout education and our district schools. The simple way to define them is a space with resources for students to create. Make explains “Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone.”
Carin, along with Library Assistant Michelle Trujillo, utilize their MakerSpace for students to collaborate, design, and build products that will help those in need. It’s why their program is called “Make for Good.” Over the past year, students have created pillowcases for a children’s hospital and Joseph’s House, fidget blankets for dementia patients, stuffed animals and blankets for charities, pillowcase dresses for Africa, and more projects that continue to grow.
As students are coming in and out of the space throughout the day, during off hours or spare time, one wonders how they were able to get so many students invested in the idea. Part of the answer is that their time counts toward volunteer hours. Barrett found value in that approach because, not only does it help students maximize their time, but she also explained “the opportunity to do good always exists. I believe making service-oriented activities something that one doesn’t have to officially set aside time for… makes students more able to imagine integrating service into their everyday lives as adults more easily.” She also explained on the program’s website, BHSMakeForGood.org, “A study by United Health Group says that 76% of people who have volunteered in the past twelve months say that volunteering has made them feel happier, and 94% of people report that it improves their mood. 78% of volunteers say that it has lowered their stress levels.” In speaking with Savannah and other students collaborating in the MakerSpace, this concept was absolutely evident.
It takes some time, funds, and energy to get a project like this going in a school. Carin provided some helpful tips in getting started. “Donor’s Choose is a good option for getting materials, but reaching out to parents and the community might also be useful here, as sewing machines, knitting and crochet tools, and the like, might be things people have that they would be happy to send to someplace where it will be used for something like this.” She reiterated the value of including the community in the project, when possible. “I have also solicited quite a bit of monetary donations to purchase making materials via grant applications and a TEF fundraiser, as well as accepting some specific donations from the community – everything made in the space uses donated funds.”
Another aspect of the developing momentum for MakerSpace is to get students excited and ready to try new ideas. She gives a presentation to a set of classes at the beginning of the year to reach every student, then advertises through announcements and social media for upcoming projects. She also contacts organizations like Ryan’s Case for Smiles and Little Dresses for Africa, which have year-round projects, as well as local initiatives. These can often be successfully started through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter.
After seeing “Make For Good” in action, there is no doubt that students are motivated and excited to collaborate and create for others. If you are interested in starting a MakerSpace, or integrate some of its ideas, in your school, feel free to contact Carin Barrett, EdTech TSD, or other MakeSpace teachers in Thompson School District. Please visit BHSMakeForGood.org for more ideas and understanding of the program.
By Joe Zappa