middle school

Thinking About Makerspaces

Our middle school is potentially looking into implementing a makerspace into the library. Thoughts about this are pretty much in the infant stages. I’ve spoken to the librarian who would love to implement one, but hasn’t made much progress yet because of other matters. I’m wanting to team up with her and see what we can develop as a plan.

Currently, our PK-2nd school has a STEAM Lab. Students and teachers use this space to complete activities aligned to standards. It has never been used as a free play space. The ITRT in charge of it works to create design briefs for teachers based on their standards and needs. She demonstrates how to use the lab and how it can fit into the curriculum.

Our 3rd-4th school also has a STEM space. Another ITRT runs that space. It also has not been used for free play, at least this year. She has found it harder to get teachers into and using the lab because they are focused on standards and being prepared for testing.

Both schools have different equipment and ways to use the lab. Some of the ideas in their space would work wonderfully for a middle school makerspace. However, equipment is not really on my mind much. Yes, there are things I’d love to have, but those are pipe dreams, and not tied to any particular goals.

Based on what I’ve researched, we need to meet and decide the goals and outcomes for the space, and how it will be utilized first. I’d like to see it used as both a free play space and as a space where activities tied to standards can be led. My biggest concern though is that the teachers will shun it during class time, as many of them are tied to a unit plan with so many days to address a standard. A lot of project-based learning is brushed aside until around SOL testing because of this. The ultimate vision would be seeing it utilized during free periods and after school, and many times throughout the school day by different teachers to explore, create, and learn.

Once we have goals and outcomes in place, then we can determine items that would meet those goals, as well as funding sources. What I would like to get (as long as it meets goals/outcomes) are things that are open-ended and not a super budget breaker. Then add more to that each year down the road.

There is still a long road ahead, and many ideas to ponder and research before anything concrete can be determined. I’m excited to see where things will end up though!

Fluco Game Designers

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In my new district, I was asked to start a STEM club of some kind at the middle school back when I interviewed and was hired. I was happy to do this, as I did want to try something new. I eventually decided on game design after having taken the Coding, App, and Game Design I training earlier in the summer. The training was meant to be used at the high school level, but I figured I could easily rework some of it to be used at the middle school level.

It took me some time to come up with my ideas on how to proceed. Unlike with previous clubs, I wanted a neat timeline of events for working with the students. I decided to use 3 different tools- Gamestar Mechanic, Minecraft, and Construct 2. I also want to have students review different games based on gameplay. I wanted there to be an end goal for the year for students as well, so I’m going to have each of them participate in the STEM National Video Game Design Challenge. I believe this will be a good way for them to put their skills to the test.

The basic idea is that students will learn gameplay mechanics by using Gamestar.

After some back and forth with the principal where we worked out details on dates and meetings, forms got sent home with student progress reports. This was probably not the best of ideas, even though it did expose the club to everyone. I ended up becoming more popular than I could have imagined.

Within the next few days, I had over 40 responses. I had to cap the numbers on the club, and in the end I ended up with 66 students. I have to split the group into two groups so that they meet every other week. I also needed volunteers, and so have ended up with 3 potential parent volunteers. Great, I was off to a good start.

Some time passed and I had to set aside my planning for a little bit due to other obligations. The week of the first meeting I began doing my final preparation. I focused on Gamestar and used their resources and lessons to design my own. I knew I needed to be prepared with so large of a group. I also began setting up Google Classroom for my group as well. I knew it would be a big help in getting information to the students. Finally, I set up the Facebook page and Twitter account for our club.

Thursday, October 6 was our first meeting. In the end I had 55 of 66 students show up. We worked in the library. Two parent volunteers showed up as well and they were a huge help in getting materials to students, as well as helping me observe and keep them on track. I could not have done it without them.

For our first meeting, we got things set up. Students completed a game designer profile I had created, and then they joined the Google Classroom and Gamestar Mechanic. We completed the first lesson on the parts of a game and they also completed episodes 1 and 2 of the first quest. We then played a match game based on the parts of a game before wrapping up and dismissing the students.

Overall I was really pleased, and so were the remarks I heard from parents as well. We’re going to meet as a whole group until behaviors keep us from doing the planned materials. They did well so far, so until something keeps us from accomplishing our goals, we’ll keep meeting in a large group.

Looking forward to the next meeting!