Elkhorn Area High School, Elkhorn, Wisconsin
The Elkhorn Area High School MakerSpace was designed to provide a free space for technology integration, project-based learning and innovation.
First implemented in fall 2016, the space encourages collaboration and brainstorming. It also develops students’ tool skills, followed by growing their diagnostic and problem-solving skills.
By the time they graduate, the goal is for each student to be comfortable in a project setting, as well as in an open-process, open-outcome project setting, says Rebecca Polack, IT director.
The MakerSpace, which is student-run, is open and available before school, after school, during lunch and homeroom, and to any teacher. The space has six 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, heat press, a plotter, drones, Claymation supplies and necessary AV tools.
Adjacent to the MakerSpace is a green-screen room, where the walls are painted green and the ceiling is lined with adjustable track lighting, allowing students and staff to produce video and superimpose anything. Desktop computers are updated with the most recent software to edit videos and design 3D prints and vinyl cut-outs.
Students can also train on the new machines. They come in for in-service days and help teach the staff.
Having at least one instructor in the MakerSpace corner from each department made the transition to the technological approach easy, says Polack.
For schools interested in creating a similar space in their own buildings, Polack recommends generously estimating the supplies that might be needed for projects. The district did not order enough products at first, which caused roadblocks as time progressed.
A bigger initial supply estimate would have made the entire process go much more smoothly, Polack says.
Because technology is always changing, the district hopes to grow with advancements, allowing students to leave with the most up-to-date knowledge of current tools, machines, programs and software.
“New machines and tools have already been ordered, and will be in place for the start of the next school year,” Polack says. “Our intentions are to keep up with the curve, and be sure not to fall behind. We want to surprise our students, and we want them to surprise us.”