Education, Tinkering

Washington Junior High School Making Spaces

March 6, 2017

By Carrie Beach

This is one of my favorite quotes.  Sometimes I feel like one of the crazy ones.  I have these ideas that I hope will help kids, get them more engaged, help them find an interest, help them build their passions.  Thank goodness I have ended up at a school with others who feel the same way I do. People who use their love of wildlife to teach about deforestation.  People who use art to teach English.  Science teachers who have their students develop solutions to real world problems like the world wide water crisis or designing incubators to help save reptile eggs.  We even had a fashion show totally organized by 7th and 8th graders where they made some pretty amazing clothes and walked them down a runway.  Our faculty and staff know the importance of bringing the real world into the classroom and teaching students using not only their interests but also our own.

Washington Junior High currently has two maker spaces that can be utilized by students.  One has a focus on technology and robotics.  It is Blake Matthews' classroom and there is always something happening there.  They have created an electric bicycle run on drill batteries for heaven's sake!!  The other space is my room, the FabLab.  It is a place for kids to use during enrichment time and before or after school.  It is also where I teach my classes.  My makerspace is focused on a mixture of things.  Fashion, crafts, electronic take apart, 3D printing, building things, basically what ever the kids can come up with.  I currently have a half gutted shopping cart in the middle of the room being converted into a stroller.  Mr. Matthews and I have worked hard to make our classrooms a place where we can let our kids explore their interests and create whatever they can dream up.  Now we would like to be able to give that opportunity to the rest of our teachers.

Maker Education can be a confusing term.  It basically means you have kids making stuff in your classroom to support the content.  Now I'm not talking about dioramas and PowerPoint's.  I mean things like building a TinMan and calculating the about of tin he will need to recover him after he is hit by the big wind storm. We have many teachers who are Makers and just don't realize it yet.  That social studies teacher who needs to borrow our electric drills for kids to do a project. Or the English teacher who sends kids to get recyclables for the art project they are making in class.  The teacher who did Shark Tank and had kids designing 3d models that needed to be printed.  They are all Makers and they are why we are participating in the Making Spaces Campaign with the Amazeum and Pittsburgh Children's Museum.

WJHS does not have space to make a school wide makerspace that can be used by all classes.  So instead, we have decided to create a Maker Library with our Making Spaces Campaign.  A space with tools and supplies that teachers need for kids to do projects in their classes.  A place where a teacher can check out a drill, safety goggles, gloves, and clamps for a class project.  It will be stocked with things like power tools, 3D printers, art supplies, Arduino microcomputers, safety equipment, and hand tools.  Teachers will be able to take these items to their classrooms and use them without worrying about borrowing something that needs to be returned for the next class period. The space and equipment will be monitored by teachers and specially trained student who will replenish supplies and be able to help teachers who may have technical difficulties along the way.   In addition, the Amazeum will be providing teachers with training on safety, use and maintenance of the equipment, and Maker Education.  They are offering training for groups or even one on one if it is needed.

WJHS Making Spaces is a huge opportunity for our school.  It will provide the opportunity to Making into even more classrooms and give more students a chance to experience student centered learning at it's best.  Please help by supporting our campaign at

Carrie Beach is a lifelong learner struggling to get better every day. She loves her children at home and in the classroom. Carrie teaches eighth grade science at Washington Junior High School and is working on the school's Making Spaces project with the Amazeum. Carrie is a self-professed maker and tinkerer and now harnesses those abilities in her classroom. She has been an ardent supporter of the Scott Family Amazeum for several years and serves on the Amazeum Council of Educators. Carrie provided this blog post to us via her own blog at