I am very fortunate to be part of the staff at Edgewood Elementary School. I was on the transition team to move with J. E. Robins and Watts Elementary Schools into our new school in the historic Edgewood neighborhood of Charleston, West Virginia. The vision of the school was to be a student-centered, technology rich, project-based learning center. I am now in my third year on this team, and the second year in our new home, and it’s so exciting to see this vision coming together.
Now, as I work through the EDLD program at Lamar, I am finding that this school’s vision fits very well with the COVA model championed by Lamar, which emphasizes Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authentic Learning. Through this program, I was challenged to come up with an Innovation Plan that would help implement the COVA model in my schools. Though I teach at three schools, I felt that the best fit for a COVA model project would be Edgewood.
At Edgewood, there are a couple challenges to implementing COVA learning in my art program. (1) I only have 30 minutes every week with my art students, and (2) core teachers’ day is so filled with math and language arts requirements that there really isn’t time to do much anything student-centered. Last year, we attempted to do a school-wide project-based learning experience, and it ultimately flopped because teachers just didn’t have enough time to make it happen. So we needed something students could do in bite-sized experiences.
I decided that what we really need is a makerspace and wrote a proposal to create this space in our tech lab. A makerspace is a shared space in which students can learn through hands-on creative and experimental activities of their own choosing and document their work through reflective entries in their digital portfolios. Makerspaces are becoming great ways for schools to provide students with more self-directed, creative learning experiences.
In my research for this project, I found that, while makerspaces do provide opportunities to explore concepts outside of core subject learning, they also reinforce those academic subjects, including those subjects most often affected by standardized testing, and there is much evidence in my research to support that experiential learning opportunities like makerspaces actually improve test scores by providing students with deeper understanding of academic concepts. I also found that makerspaces positively affect student attendance and graduation rates, create a more collaborative school culture, and promote technology skills. Best of all, makerspaces increase student involvement by giving students ownership of their learning process and allowing them to pursue things that interest them.
I’m happy to report that this proposal has already received the green light, and I have moved on to creating an implementation plan to make it happen. I am excited to be working with Edgewood’s Technology Specialist, Brianne Vandal to plan, create, and launch our makerspace, and we are right on track for our Maker Fest launch event the first week of school in August!