Lewis Mills “Maker Space” Looks to Build Self-Directed Learning


Jake Ferrari, Writer

In an attempt to promote self-directed learning and material-based working, Lewis Mills, in collaboration with The Learning Center, launched the “Maker Space” during the last week of September.

The establishment of the Maker Space goes along with the national “Maker Faire” movement.  Maker Faires are events where innovators show off their talents to tool and tinker with hopes of creating a new item.  Schools across the country have created their own Maker Spaces with hopes of planting the Maker seed in future generations,

The goal of these maker spaces is to create a learning environment by doing, creating, solving, producing, and sharing.  Schools are also looking to promote the science, technology, engineering, and math fields that are currently in need of interested people.

The Lewis Mills portion of the Maker Space has been backed by Assistant Principal Silvia Ouellette, Librarian Cynthia Diaz, and Director of Student Learning Cheri Burke.  They will be in charge of assessing the success of the Maker Space based on attendance numbers, response to the workspace, and if a change in learning style is actually seen.  The first week saw solid numbers; 32 students showed up to try their hand at building and tinkering.  During the previous school year, staff gauged the interest of students during a P.R.I.D.E Time session.  Students were asked what items they would want in a possible “Makery.”  The overwhelming response was a 3-D printer.

“We showed them a YouTube video that showcased a Makery,” said Cynthia Diaz, “They had a 3-D printer, which caught their eye.”

Cynthia Diaz and Alexandra Grundt, librarians in Region 10,  requested a $4000 grant for two 3-D printers and two $55 Smart LED TV’s.  However, the grant was denied.  Despite this, Diaz intends to continue pushing for a 3-D printer, an item that would certainly create more interest in the Maker Space.

Diaz, who will be overseeing the Maker Space while it is functioning, hopes people will use the space to build their learning experience.  Items like the Lego Mindstorms EV3 and the Little Bits kits will help build self-directed learning and hands-on experience.  Often, the ability to build these aspects is unseen in a school setting, but Lewis Mills is trying to open up different doors to learning.

Although things appear to be heading in the right direction, not everything is perfect.  Diaz foresees a few potential problems that could hamper the Maker Space experience.

“It is not a place designed for kids to be aimlessly fooling around,” Diaz explained.  She wants to make sure students are actually focused on building something and improving their learning, not just messing around.

Diaz also believes she could face a problem with the kits.  Some of the kits contain over 100 pieces and can make many different items, so if one piece is lost, the integrity of the whole kit could go with it.

“I have to constantly be thinking about ways to make the supplies accessible but yet try to help [the students] understand they have to be accountable,” Diaz said.

Students have given mixed reactions to the Maker Space so far.  Jared Mihalcik, a senior at Mills, is excited for the Maker Space.

“I think it’s a positive thing and a great learning opportunity,” said Mihalcik.  “I probably will check it out at least once.”

Some students who have used the space are frustrated with it so far.  One student said he was “very disappointed” because there was “no 3-D printer.”  He went on to say he could “find all of the other equipment in a closet somewhere.”  He does not plan on going back.

The Maker Space will be open during school hours from 7-2, and will be used by the Science Club occasionally after school.  Any student can access it during their free periods.  Everyone involved in the Maker Space project hopes that their new innovation that promotes students’ innovation will be a success.