Stories

As part of her service at Mary Mcleod Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles, CA, Maker VISTA member Kira Watson coordinated the Parent Child Education Program (PCEP) as part of a USC Sea Grant initiative. By the end of the 2015-2016 school year, the impact of Kira’s efforts was readily apparent, with one participating parent-child team standing out in particular. After a few sessions the student and his mother began to identify PCEP as an activity reserved especially for mother-son bonding time.  The mother credited the program for providing her with skills essential to helping her son navigate his academics, and knowledge that made her less apprehensive about assisting him with science homework.  The student expressed that participating in the program taught him about new career fields such as marine biology and oceanography, careers that he may not have been exposed to during this phase of his academic career had he not participated in the program. In addition, the student shared that outside of school, he and his mother continue to explore environmental science, marine biology, and water conservation together. Through her efforts, Maker VISTA member Kira established a partnership for Bethune students and parents that empowers them with access, and engages them in real-world application of skills in order to gain new perspective on environmental issues that directly impact their community.

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Maker VISTA members Colby Snyder and Brittany Newswanger, along with site supervisor Kendra Johnson, coordinated the Charlotte Lab School‘s first annual Cardboard Challenge in April 2016. The Cardboard Challenge was a 2 day event, in partnership with international and local organizations, where students and their teachers built a variety of cardboard creations.  The first day was a school-wide building event, with 280 students and over 30 faculty members participating. On the second day, a cardboard bazaar was held, where creations from the previous day were raffled off, raising over $1,500 for the school. The school plans to make this an annual event.

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Maker VISTA member Caitlan Cole created a website for STEAM and maker programing at Drew Charter School in Atlanta, GA. Crafting the layout and compiling an incredible collection of photos and images, Caitlan designed the website to provide information about the makerspace and all associated programming, including events, newly launched mobile-making units called STEAM Trunks, and detailed documentation. Teachers, staff, students, and parents can use this site to find out more about how to get involved and use available resources. Caitlan also created a system to reserve materials and space, thus putting resources in the hands of those who need them most. During the month of October 2016, 1,070 unique visitors used the website to sign up for activities, reserve carts, see student work, or find school contact information.

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With the support and collaboration from the Community Parent Representative at San Fernando Middle School, Maria Nuno, Maker VISTA member Lyna Abal has been able to launch maker education parent workshops. These workshops provide opportunities for parents to learn about the maker movement, the importance of making to learn, and make projects themselves, in order to experience making and gain the skills necessary to assist their children with projects at home. At the start of September 2016, Lyna successfully held the first parent workshop and even added a second session for additional parents in the following week.

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Maker VISTA members Montana Manalo and Victor Aw built the Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative volunteer program from scratch.  Using information gained from a volunteer coordination class offered through VISTA Blend, Montana and Victor recruited 17 volunteers between November 2015 and March 2016. Those volunteers cumulatively worked a total of over 212.5 hours by the end of September 2016. Victor and Montana recruited in the community through word of mouth, pamphleting and networking. In addition to recruitment, they designed a volunteer training program and a volunteer data management system.

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Maker VISTA member Kira Watson took a personal interest in improving student access to computer technology resources during her service at Mary Mcleod Bethune Middle School.  Kira focused on identifying online educational resources offered by Bethune partners and educational institutions like USC, Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley. These colleges and universities offered references and materials to introduce STEM activities into existing curriculum. Access to this knowledge enables students to bridge the gap between traditional learning methods and computer technology, while simultaneously exposing them to STEM-related academic fields and career paths.  Kira worked directly with math and science teachers to promote the utilization of computer-based educational resources, provided by partner organizations such as NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.  Kira provided IT support to teachers during computer based lessons and also trained educators on how to access the school’s online IT reservation database materials, allowing them to book computer labs for various math and science computer based activities. As a result of her foundational groundwork, Kira effectively minimized some of the technology disparities at Bethune Middle School.