Sacred Heart Catholic School in Espanola is very grateful and excited with the ongoing results of a province-wide initiative implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. The learnings are being acknowledged, sustained and celebrated because the initiative has been fully embraced by both students and staff. Sacred Heart was one of just thirteen schools in the province to be trained to create a makerspace which is a physical environment that fosters opportunities for hands-on learning and creation, often enabled by emerging technologies.
The Espanola school received a grant of $25,000 to create its Makerspace. This allowed for the purchase of ten iPads, robots such as Bee Bots, Dash & Dot, Cubelets and Ozobots, a 3D printer, circuit building kits, sewing materials and Lego packages. The funding also allowed for staff to learn about the technology and to plan lessons that connected to the curriculum and incorporated the ‘Maker Mindset’.
“Before our participation in the Makerspace project, there were small pockets of these kinds of activities happening in our school. Now, there are intentional lessons happening across all grades. These tasks encourage global competencies like collaboration, problem-solving and improving ideas. Often, students embed the technology into their work with little direction from the teacher,” said Sacred Heart Principal, Syndy Withers.
Makerspace activities and challenges are open-ended and allow for differentiated instruction. Most tasks are highly engaging, requiring collaboration, inquiry, communication skills and, perhaps most importantly, innovation.
“Students love using their Makerspace time to pursue their passion projects. Some students are learning to code, others are constructing models and some are even learning to sew. All students selected an area of interest and they are excited to share what they have learned with their peers,” said Grade 5 teacher, Laurie Donnelly.
While Makerspace provides many connections to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education concepts, Sacred Heart has been able to modify their particular model by incorporating the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations.
“We have added Religion to our Makerspace title, so we now have a STREAM room. Recently, one class was exploring the connection of plastic in our waterways and oceans as we consider our role as global citizens and stewards of Mother Earth. This led to a call, from the students, for more litter-free lunches,” said Withers.
A benefit of having a Makerspace area in a school is that there are few limits to what activities can be performed. Teachers are encouraged to first try a ‘no technology task’ and then progress toward medium technology and high technology tasks. At Sacred Heart, the goal this year is for all students to work in the Makerspace area at least once a week.
“I wish we could go to Makerspace every day,” said Grade 5 student, Mika Haikara.
“We are truly blessed to have an enthusiastic staff that values flexible, collaborative learning spaces where students can gather to hypothesize, explore and experiment to further and deepen their own learning. So glad to observe students self-motivated and determined to working towards a solution of a problem. Through the use of makerspaces, Sacred Heart Catholic School invites curiosity, inspires wonder, encourages playfulness and celebrates unique solutions,” said School Superintendent, Maria Esposito.
Sacred Heart is extremely grateful for the support of the Ministry of Education, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Council of Ontario Directors of Education which developed and funded the Makerspace pilot project.