January 8, 2013
By Guest Contributor Andres Pinzon, Holy Spirit Preparatory School STEM Center Director, Atlanta, Georgia
Holy Spirit Preparatory School (HSP) has offered since 1996 a learning environment where students with diverse cultural backgrounds enthusiastically acquire knowledge and cultivate the skills necessary for leadership in the 21st century.
The economic and technological developments of the last years have made it clear that our school should provide greater avenues for students to personalize their education. As well as the classical components of education, students will need to learn how to solve challenges creatively, explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related fields, acquire experience with new technologies and have the tools to be able to become entrepreneurs.
We set out to define the components of a STEM Lab/ maker space and guided discovery learning programs for the Upper School Campus in Fall 2011. Enrichment clubs and activities were selected that would motivate student participation (computer modeling and 3-D printing, flight ground school, robotics, and 3-D educational simulations, building and participating in submarine competitions – www.seaperch.org). The space where these activities would take place needed to be inviting, comfortable, flexible and allowances had to be made for future expansion.
After design and renovation of an existing classroom, the new lab was unveiled to the school community by December of 2011. Students played a part in the process by helping assemble the custom built computers as well as a Rapman 3-D printer kit.
From the beginning our maker space has been successful at capturing the interest and imagination of the students who enjoy technology. We have been especially encouraged to see success with students who have learning disabilities or needed to find a place in school where to “hang out” with others that have common interests. These students felt empowered by the experience of creating a bridge on Sketchup, flying a simulation of a Cessna airplane in a full motion platform, assembling electronic controllers, or recreating designer pillows with duct tape. “I have an idea”, “I know how it works” and “I made this” are powerful statements that transform student’s attitude towards realizing creative endeavors and taking on challenges.
Starting school year 2012-2013 Holy Spirit Prep started offering an Engineering degree to High School students. Additional 3-D printing, scanning and well as laser cutting equipment is now available. New STEM oriented activities are being prepared and tested that will benefit Pre-K, Elementary and High School students, and greater emphasis will be made on serving girls and the arts. Heightened interest and engagement by parents, students and faculty have generated the momentum for creating a new maker space at our Lower School Campus.
In the last year we have learned that willingness to try new ideas, desire to reach out to student’s interest as well as a large dose of fun are the foundation of a maker culture. Greater rewards lie ahead of us as we aim not only to serve all HSP students but those children that are not able to access maker space resources in our community.