Students with a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at St Therese, West Wollongong are now able to engage in STEM learning in a dedicated ‘makerspace’ area, fostering creativity and inquiry-based learning.
St Therese’s once tired looking basement has been transformed into a vibrant and engaging space that incorporates the school’s Spheros, mBots and VEX robots, as well as a range of construction tools and materials for the students to use to engage in STEM-related activities both as part of in-class learning and during lunchtime workshops.
Launched with their community, the students were delighted to show parents and grandparents around the school and to showcase their learning environment - including their exciting new makerspace.
Year 6 teacher Michelle Devine has been the driving force behind the makerspace, sharing her passion and vision about how the area could most effectively work for the whole school.
St Therese's hope for makerspace is to be able to reach as many students as possible, encouraging practical skills, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking, and to offer students experience working with emerging technologies.
“We’re really excited about our makerspace. Informal robotics experiences are currently being run at lunchtime, alongside teachers accessing the space to support the Science curriculum. During Term 2, formalised lunchtime workshops will be available that students may choose to participate in,” Mrs Devine said.
“St Therese is grateful for the support of the Australian Federal Government and their Makerspace Grant Program that has allowed our students to explore the wonders of STEM in a unique learning area.
“We are appreciative of the artistic inspiration provided by Year 2 teacher, Jenny Jancetic, who creatively directed the colour, design and fairy lights of our makerspace – making it a really vibrant area. Additionally, for the assistance provided from CEDoW Education Officer for Learning Technologies, Ben Woods, who enabled our vision to come alive.”
Mr Woods said that St Therese had done a fantastic job in transforming an unused area of their school into an innovative learning space. “Makerspace has already sparked the interest of students, teachers and parents. It will provide teachers with a space to engage students in critical, creative problem-solving and bring to life STEM education at St Therese,” he said.
“Makerspaces like the one at St Therese become more than just a STEM learning space - they become places where students are challenged to take risks, bounce back when they don’t succeed and work collaboratively with their peers.
“Perseverance and resilience were demonstrated during the launch, when Year 6 students were tasked with designing a balsa plane to fly around a power anchor. Whilst not all groups had a successful take-off, the ones that did, worked through a process of evaluation and redesign to get their plane off the ground - with success being greeted by uproars of cheers and excitement.”
What the students said about their Makerspace:
“I really enjoyed the makerspace experience at the launch. We made balsa wood aeroplanes that we then flew. I think the space should be used by our whole school because it is a different way of learning that gives you an understanding of problem solving,” said Declan, Year 6.
“The experiences provided were different to what we usually do at school, which is a good thing. I liked building the plane because I have never done anything like it, I can’t wait to use the makerspace again,” shared classmate Jacinta.
“I think our makerspace is amazing. I love all the artwork that’s around the area, the fairy lights and the dots on the floor. I like to play with the robots at lunchtime,” said Daisy, Year 2.
“I liked taking turns with the robots at lunchtime. The planes didn’t all fly though, they needed more air to make them go up to the moon,” stated Christian, Year 1.
"I really enjoyed using the makerspace - I think it’s something the whole school will enjoy. It was challenging, but when you solved problems you were overjoyed,” said Rose, Year 6.
Mrs Devine said the school is looking forward to using the space further, with students across the school expressing interest in becoming more involved. “We hope the makerspace will allow our students the opportunity to engage and flourish in STEM-related activities in a more innovative and enjoyable way, providing them with experiences to learn essential skills that can potentially lead to rewarding careers.”
Watch this (maker) space!
The Australian Federal Government’s Makerspace Grant Program provides Australian primary and secondary schools with a one-off grant from $2,000 to $5,000 to support the establishment of a makerspace for students to access and work on STEM-related activities. Read more about the program here.