by Margaret Kaufer
Hommocks Middle School Co-Op Camp & Maker Corps: FROM STEM to STEAM
The Mamaroneck Union Free School District is in its second year as a Maker Corps host site. In 2014, our program is one of only four Maker Corps host sites that serve youth through a public school summer program. This summer, our Maker Corps Mentors (MCM’s) will once again be teaching at the Hommocks Middle School Summer Co-Op Camp. There, the MCM’s will be working collaboratively with a veteran art teacher to add STEM learning, innovation and creative making elements to the campers’ daily art elective.
Hommocks Co-Op Camp serves 100 at-risk students from our school district including students with special needs. It is a unique opportunity for financially underprivileged, at-risk students as well as special needs students to have a summer experience that combines academic support with recreational activities. The Maker Corps program transformed the camp art experience allowing kids to explore new materials with open-ended objectives. All who were involved used words like “cutting-edge,” “challenging,” “just cool,” “satisfying,” “fun,” and “collaborative” to describe their experiences. The camp meets five days a week for six weeks which allows for in-depth projects that give both the students and the Maker Corps team ample opportunity to delve into projects, make adjustments and even go beyond original goals.
The Maker Corps activities are held in a large, well-equipped technology room at the middle school. Large tech tables, an adjoining computer lab and multiple 3-D printers provide a great foundation for the creating that takes place. But, it is the collaboration among the MCM’s and the lead teacher as well as the unexpected and inspiring suggestions from the kids that shape the learning in the room. Drawing on their individual strengths and personal interests, the Maker Corps Members work as a team to develop engaging, hands-on art projects that also involve aspects of engineering, science (including computer programming), technology, design (including artistic and musical creations) and fabrication. Projects have included individual creations such as Scratch programs and ArtBots in addition to large-scale collaborative initiatives such as an on-going “Utopia” construction project, which took over a large part of the workspace.
For many students, access to this software, tech materials and equipment is completely new. While some rely on direct instruction to make progress, others intuitively take over the work and lead the way for themselves. In this way, the lines between teacher and student often become invisible as students become leaders around certain topics. The MCM’s are vital in this work as they offer not just their specific skills and passions but also because they model the idea that “try, do, test, re-do, take a chance, try again and laugh aloud” is always more fulfilling when accomplished through teamwork.
To read the blog written by our Hommocks Maker Corps 2013 group: click here.
Maker Ed is thrilled to welcome the Mamaroneck Union Free School District back as a Maker Corps Host Site for 2014. Applications for all Maker Corps Members are now open, and close on March 21. Click here for more information, and to apply. – Nancy