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Midvale Journal

New makerspace creates welcoming school culture at Midvale Middle

Dec 04, 2019 09:27AM ● By Julie Slama

Midvale Middle School sixth-graders Skye Welker and George Erekson work together with Cubelets during Midvale Middle School’s new makerspace. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Midvale Middle School sixth-grader Skye Welker wants to have a technology career and knows by learning different aspects of field, she will be one step up in getting that job. That is one of the reasons she joined the afterschool makerspace.

“I really like it and wanted to have fun as well as be able to get a job in my future,” she said as she and sixth-grader George Erekson were working with Cubelets. “I like working together to figure things out.”

George also said he enjoyed seeing the Cubelets (robot blocks) work.

“It’s fun understanding how robotics and technology works,” he said.

Working with Cubelets is just one of the activities offered at Midvale Middle’s makerspace, coordinated by teacher librarian/media specialist Judy Rembacz.

“When they’re able to build it, they are working together to problem solve and create — skills that will prove useful in their academic and career lives,” she said.

In simple terms, a makerspace is a place where students have an opportunity to explore their own interests, use tools and materials in both the physical and virtual worlds and develop projects. The best part is that students work together to learn, collaborate and share, Rembacz said.

During lunch, Rembacz opens the library so students can be introduced to Spheros, circuits, Makey Makeys and 2 Cues as well as have time after school so they can have a more in-depth experience with technology.

“We allow kids a chance to tinker, think critically and create. They’re building relationships and it’s introducing a new culture to our school community. It’s awesome to see kids not only go to class together, but to build and program robots together,” she said.

The makerspace also bonds the studentbody as more students feel welcome in the library, Rembacz said.

“We know some kids come to the school and there are hard things going on in their life, whether it’s low socio-economic means, arriving as a refugee and getting accustomed to life here, or some personal things going on with themselves or their family situation. We want them to come in here, feel safe, breathe, and enjoy being a kid. At the same time, they’re learning by building a tower out of plants or figuring out how Cubelets work,” she said.

Rembacz said that in addition to problem-solving and teamwork, students work in pairs so they’re learning communication skills.

“These are skills that will help prepare them for the real world and generally, they’ll find more success when they have someone helping alongside of them,” she said.

The makerspace was introduced this school year, operating out of library funds, but Rembacz hopes to obtain iPads and other items through grants. 

She’s also working with teachers to support afterschool activities, such as FIRST LEGO League robotics and FIRST Tech Challenge, as well as with their core curriculum. For example, she’s working with sixth-grade social studies teacher Tamara Taysom to allow students to build catapults and ball mazes as they learn about medieval times, she said. 

In addition to the makerspace, Rembacz offers a monthly book club and gives copies of the book to 40 student participants. The library also supports the school’s Battle of the Books program.

“It’s important for kids to walk away with a book and to learn about different genres,” she said. “We want our students to read and be more so engaged in our programs.”