By Gaby Galvin | Contributor
May 22, 2017, at 5:13 p.m.
In Texas, a 13-year-old boy built a robot that could rescue victims of natural disasters. In Georgia, a 15-year-old girl developed a device that alerts parents who have have left their child in the car. And in California, a 13-year-old boy created a Braille printer that would be almost six times cheaper than the currently available model.
Young people aren’t just the future. They’re the present, innovating and creatively solving problems in a range of fields. Students across the country, from every background, have the ability to build new products that could change lives around the world.
Neat rows of desks and chairs have dotted the landscape of elementary and secondary school classrooms for centuries. But is that really the best learning environment for children in the 21st century, where future success is increasingly reliant on such attributes as creativity, innovation, problem solving and critical thinking?
Few trends in K-12 ed tech are as hot—or as under-researched—as “Maker” education.
The term generally refers to using a wide variety of hands-on activities (such as building, computer programming, and sewing) to support academic learning and the development of a mindset that values playfulness and experimentation, growth and iteration, and collaboration and community.
We’re on a mission to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics – better known as STEM.
Why? Because we want today’s students to be a part of tomorrow’s solutions – using STEM to create, design and solve for the needs and demands to come that will make our lives better and easier.
But for that to be possible, students need access to the latest learning tools and technologies and unfortunately, too many of today’s technology labs and science classrooms are not making the grade.
Fab School Labs to the rescue!
After a successful inaugural year for the contest in 2015, the Northrop Grumman Foundation Fab School Labs Contest is back for a second year, making five additional grants of up to $100,000 available to public middle schools for a fabulous school lab makeover.
Libraries are one of the fastest-evolving learning spaces. As many resources move online, and teachers require students to collaborate more and demonstrate their learning, librarians are trying to keep up. Some are evenspearheading the changes. Public libraries have led the effort to provide access to 21st century technologies and learning resources, but now university and K-12 libraries are beginning to catch up. Makerspaces are one way a few groundbreaking libraries are trying to provide equal access to exciting technologies and skills.
Makerspaces — school-based, concept-to-reality, hands-on learning spaces — use a comprehensive approach. They have become popular among today’s educators because of the high demand for future professionals who are not only technically skilled but also experienced in working collaboratively with their peers.
For example, Peddie School (New Jersey) recently unveiled a 4,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art digital fabrication laboratory, complete with design, engineering, and testing studios. This Fab Lab continues the school’s tradition of innovating and using technology to enhance learning, according to Elizabeth Silverman, chair of the board of trustees at Peddie. “We believe it is important to not only integrate technology more fully into our curriculum, but also to foster interdisciplinary learning, provide opportunities for concrete applications of our STEM courses, and further develop the critical thinking skills of our students,” says Silverman.
The College Board reports that according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the growth of jobs in the STEM disciplines was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM disciplines in the last 10 years. STEM jobs are expected to grow by 17 percent versus 9.8 percent for non-STEM jobs in the 10-year period leading to 2018. But as a nation, we are not graduating nearly enough STEM majors to meet the demand. As is well documented, the United States has to either export many technical projects or import foreign talent to complete them here.
read more: How You Can Make a Makerspace Work for Your School – Independent Ideas Blog