April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Maker Space Gets an Upgrade, Becomes “Part of the Healing Process”

Braden Blackburn (center, at computer), a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has been teaching other students—and some teachers—what they can do with new 3D printers.

Diana Haneski admits it—when she first heard about maker spaces, she thought, “Oh, they’ve renamed ‘centers.’” With nearly 20 years in education, she is used to seeing old educational methods given new names and declared the latest, greatest thing. But over time she realized that this maker space thing wasn’t simply a new name for a familiar idea.

“It’s better,” the media specialist at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, FL, says. “There’s STEM and so many other possibilities.”

Since returning to the school after the February 14 shooting that took 17 lives, Haneski has tried to make positive changes in her library. Her evolving maker space became part of those efforts.

Before, she had some tables set up with activities: knitting, puzzles, origami, and coloring. There was some technology and an after school club, but during the day, the students tended to gravitate to the more traditional offerings, such as the puzzles.

moving toward a real maker space

That said, she wanted what she had to evolve into a more of a real maker space and was already planning. The day of the shooting, a furniture vendor had come to the school to talk to Haneski about transforming her space. They worked on a solution for the right place in the library for the maker space and the right furniture to create a comfortable, collaborative area.

After the shooting, when teachers returned to school to plan for the students’ came back, the district brought in various educators with expertise in different fields. They were there to offer their assistance to MSD teachers who wanted it.

“My media lead saw these two STEM teachers who weren’t going to the science classes,” says Haneski.

Instead, the STEM teachers, Erik Leitner and Annmargareth Marousky, talked to Haneski, asking what they could do for her.

“It was like a blessing,” she says. “All of a sudden, we have two 3-D printers. This awful thing happened to us, and people are being really nice to us.”

While the STEM teachers came to the library to help, once the students saw the printers, they really took the lead. Junior Braden Blackburn, particularly took to the printers. He “has been making things left and right,” says Haneski. “He made me a Groot that I just adore.

Some of Braden’s 3-D printer creations.

When he found out she liked Harry Potter, Braden created an owl and a Harry Potter bookmark. Haneski loved the latter so much that she put in an order with him to make one for each of her “Lit Lunch” students.

In true maker mentality, Braden is now “very excitedly” showing his classmates what he is doing and how to use the printer. They started creating and problem solving together. He is motivating others, Haneski says, and now when teachers ask about the 3-D printer, Haneski directs them to him.

“It’s been a positive experience in so many ways,” Haneski says. “Now we have something going, more than what I had before.”

Help with healing

For these students trying to deal with their tragedy and being back at school, the growing maker space serves another function as well.

“For a little while, you forget,” says Haneski. Of course, she adds, nobody ever actually forgets what happened, but when occupied with something such as the 3-D printers, the students “get into a flow, doing something else,” she says. “It’s very good for your mind. It’s been part of the healing process.”

The activity tables are still there—with the addition of one set up by a student with the information and materials needed to write letters to government representatives about gun control laws, and another for making friendship bracelets, thanks to bracelet-making instructions and materials sent by a retired teacher in Massachusetts.

Half of Haneski’s library space is currently occupied by counselors. While students and faculty members can go to them, sometimes a counselor will see someone in need and reach out instead of waiting. The counselor may join the student or students at one of the tables.

“Now you have six kids around a table with a counselor working on a puzzle, and they’re talking,” Haneski says.

another choice for everyone

Haneski is still working on the best way to organize the library when she orders her new furniture and moves toward a bigger, better maker space. The location of outlets is an issue, as is the flow of the library and visibility of the space. Haneski’s goal is to create a place that is not only designed and stocked for student-led, open-ended learning, but is immediately identifiable as inclusive and welcoming to all.

“I want people to come in and see activities going on that they can participate in or feel they can walk over and say, ‘What’s happening?’ and they can learn by watching what [other] students are doing,” she says. “I want them to have the experience of figuring something out. I want people to see we are diverse [and] have something for everyone.”

She pauses before adding, “I don’t want it to take over. I just want it to be part of the library, another choice.”

Kara Yorio About Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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