Washington University Institute for School Partnerships

Early in 2017 we forged a new relationship with the Institute for School Partnership at Washington University to help jump start STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) interest and Maker Education at the elementary school level in the St. Louis area.

The Maker Education movement promotes a hands-on approach to developing skills both directly and indirectly related to the pillars of STEM learning. Todays employers report major deficiencies in critical thinking, creative confidence in problem solving, effective collaboration, comfort with risk-taking, learning from failure, and digital literacy. These issues are multiplied for students coming from challenged districts.

The Foundation and the Institute for School Partnership are helping to enable this type of active learning by developing mobile Makerspaces and making them available to school districts with limited resources that would not otherwise have access to this type of innovative learning.

The Foundation made a financial contribution in order to help build these customizable toolkits, essentially Makerspaces-In-a-Box, in order to expose students from various districts around the St Louis area to this innovative, experiential approach to STEM learning.

The funds will go towards purchasing tools, microcontrollers and 3-D printers along with the development of easily adaptable and meaningful curriculum.

The Institute for School Partnership has identified several potential partner school districts and are currently piloting the project with the University City School District and Hawthorne Leadership School for Girls. Recently, ISP worked with the sixth grade teachers at Brittany Woods Middle School to introduce their students to maker education at a kickoff event for their “Back to the Future” project. This project is a quarter-long cross-curricular problem-based learning experience designed by the teachers at Brittany Woods. Their objective was to challenge their students to create a city plan for the ideal University City of the future informed by their study of the city’s past. Watch the video below to see the students in action.

In addition to working with the Brittany Woods team, the Institute for School Partnership with the support of the Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation also helped the 8th grade teachers at Hawthorn implement a Maker class.  Curriculum for the teachers to use in this semester-long course is being created and provided.  In Unit 1, the students used basic maker materials to design a mechanical sculpture. Students then studied basic circuitry and learned how to create a circuit using simple materials.  Next, they combined their understanding of simple machines and circuitry by creating carnival games out of cardboard.  Each game was required to include a circuit that was completed at the outcome of the game - i.e. a light, buzzer, or motor is activated when the game is either won or lost.  The students showcased their games at a recent carnival. They were impressive.  The next unit of the curriculum introduces 3D printing and challenges students to combine that method with the prototypes they build using the maker kits.  We are excited to see what they build.

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