Making Spaces Program Innovates NWA Schools
Making and tinkering are core to educational experiences at the Scott Family Amazeum and in the museum’s work with schools in Northwest Arkansas. Shortly after opening in July 2015, the museum became the regional hub for the Making Spaces: Expanding Maker Education Across the Nation Program. This program uses an innovative model to support schools in sustainably integrating making and tinkering into classrooms by developing makerspaces.
“Now more than ever, including making and tinkering in the curriculum inside and outside of school supports developing skills to address novel challenges,” says Mindy Porter, director of education at the Amazeum.
“In the process of making and tinkering, kids discover that playing with their own ideas drives creative problem-solving and leads to innovative solutions. They learn the skills and develop a mindset that is agile, curious, and ready to think differently,” says Porter.
Not all the makerspaces are the same, but each is aligned to a set of principles that promote hands-on learning, open-ended exploration, and significant experimentation with students at the center.
Bentonville's Old High Middle School participated in the first cohort of the program. Educator Stacey Harris talks about how the program helps develop a mindset in students that supports grit, determination and a passion for learning.
Maker focused learning integrates science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) by providing students the opportunity to explore relevant, authentic, real-world problems as they are learning. Many experiences are driven by the learner’s own excitement and passion for a topic. Students take ownership of learning, explore options, find novel solutions, and apply new learning when their natural curiosity is engaged.
“The 21 schools that partnered with us in the Making Spaces Program over the past five years committed to expanding opportunities for students,” says Porter. “These dedicated educators and administrators were willing to trust a new museum and implement a new program that was out of the norm because they saw the potential for transforming and enhancing the experience for learners.” Schools with any grade configuration or student population can participate in the Making Spaces Program.
Harris talks about how maker-based learning prepares students for future challenges by developing a mindset that is solution focused.
Each year, schools are invited to join a cohort that receives professional development and technical support from the Amazeum team to create and sustain a making and tinkering environment in the school. These cohorts build a long-term relationship with the museum and each other. In the process, they share information and collaborate often resulting in a change of mindset for the institutions as well.
“We see this relationship as beneficial for all of us,” says Porter. “But primarily, it benefits the students who begin a path to college and careers supplied with tools for a changing world.”
Professional development programs for educators in the region supported in part by a grant from the Walmart Foundation.