Stony Brook Middle School, Westford, Massachusetts
When Stony Brook Middle School built a makerspace in the library, no one realized how it would impact the entire school.
Launched in 2016, the Stony Brook Innovation Lab, open every morning and Wednesday afternoon, serves nearly 700 students in grades 6 through 8. Like many makerspaces, the area is organic and changes with the interests of the students. The space features stations available for students to create 3D art, practice coding, play music, explore virtual reality and more. There are even pop-up stations that include robotics, electronic building kits, and arts and crafts.
The success of the lab is evidenced in the number of students visiting and engaging in activities every day. “The most exciting thing to me is to see the student engagement and how they want to take things further,” says librarian Nicole Smith, who was instrumental in driving the project. “To see kids really invest in what they are doing is just amazing.”
In fact, students were involved from the start, meeting weekly with staff and teachers to suggest which products might be purchased for the makerspace and how they could be used.
Teachers may bring classes to work in the space or borrow materials to use in activities, such as applying math to robot mini-golf, teaching music with Legos, sharing video messages as part of a cultural exchange with Taiwan, and telling social stories through crafts. Creating programs that connect to the curriculum made educators realize the potential for carrying the maker philosophy throughout the school.
Ultimately, Stony Brook aims to transform the building beyond the Innovation Lab into a fully realized maker-centered learning environment, supporting efforts to embed the 4Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity) in all classes and to expand opportunities for project-based learning.
“It’s not about the facility. It’s really about a mindset,” says principal Christopher Chew. “That’s why we’re passionate about pushing it back into the classrooms. We didn’t want our makerspace to be just a fancy room with a lot of technology, we want it be about the skills our students can develop when they are able to access these tools.”