PTO Helps Makerspace Become Reality at Manchester Park

Sept. 20, 2017 ~ Elementary school has gone far beyond the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic). At Manchester Park Elementary School, students and teachers are focusing on the three Ds (discover, design and do). Their new MP 3D Lab has opened a world of new experiences for children of all ages thanks to fundraising efforts by the PTO.

Marsha Vogrin, president of the parent-teacher organization, said a survey of parents showed many wanted more learning resources, especially in the area of technology. Principal Sean Bohon shared an idea about a makerspace room.

"The PTO board loved the idea and we worked with teachers' input to plan out the room and bring it to fruition," Vogrin said. "We opened the room on Sneak-a-Peek Night and it was so rewarding to see the excitement of parents and students."

This makerspace area has five tables and a comfortable sitting area with couches and chairs where students can use their iPads to enhance their reading skills or collaborate on other activities. From Lincoln Logs to a 3D printer, and everything in between, students have many ways to engineer, build and learn in the MP 3D Lab. With the help of teachers, they can use virtual reality goggles to visit places like the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City.

"The lab is really a place for students to discover, design and do just like its name!" third-grade teacher Melissa Woolery said. "The goal is to have students taking ownership of their learning by diving deep and trying out new things they may not have in the regular classroom."

Woolery's personal goal is to take her class to the lab every other week, but the building expectation is for every class to visit the lab at least once per quarter.

Kailyn Keplinger's fourth-grade class has visited multiple times and tried various stations in the lab.

"We started out by setting up Osmo iPad stations for students to practice spelling words while other students were able to experience the virtual reality technology!" Keplinger said. "The class 'went to outer space' the day after the solar eclipse to learn more about the solar system. My class used the green screen DoInk app along with our green screens to create news reports to align with a social studies activity."

Enthusiastic and widespread use of the MP 3D Lab is exciting for Vogrin and the rest of the PTO board.

"As parents, we have experienced these types of activities with our children at science centers like Science City and could see first-hand how they could benefit our children and the school as a whole," she said. "STEM is the future for our children and what better way to embrace the future than with a hands-on learning environment."

Merging the classroom curriculum with hands-on experimentation in the 3D lab is kay for teachers and students alike.

"In fourth grade, we learn about circuits in science," Keplinger said. "During these units, the students can go down to the lab and choose to work at a station with Makey Makey, Little Bits, Snap Circuits, etc. to really see how circuits work and are built. They can then use their creativity to design their own invention that involves circuits. It takes what we are doing in the classroom and really brings it to life!"

Ongoing professional development helps teachers feel comfortable about using every aspect of the 3D lab.

"We have really stressed to teachers that it's OK not to know everything about every item, just to get in there and try different things," Woolery said. "Sometimes the students know more about the gadgets and technology than we do, and it's great for us to learn from them."

students with Code-a-Pillar  Code-A-Pillar allows students to “code” a plastic caterpillar so that is travels from point A to point B based on blocks they snap together. “I have been very excited to have a place where students can be innovative and creative with technology,” fourth-grade teacher Kailyn Keplinger said. “Beyond the technology, students learn how to collaborate, problem solve, and work together in groups, which are all qualities needed in the real world.”
students practice reading with iPads Independent reading is made easy with headphones and iPads. Students listen to a story and then answer questions on the iPad to test their reading comprehension.
students practice spelling with Osmo The Osmo game/learning system allows students to interact with their iPads as they practice their spelling words. A small reflector over the iPad “sees” letters students arrange as they try to be the first to spell a word correctly.
students learn with virtual reality goggles

Virtual reality goggles help students visit places around the world. “I hope to take my students on a tour of different monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C.,” third-grade teacher Melissa Woolery said. “When we talk about the three branches of government, I would love to take them on a tour of the different government buildings that house each branch.”

Photos by Marlene Colgan