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Gainesville High's Makerspace offers creative learning above and beyond
Technology lets students turn lessons into displays
3-D printed models were made by students in Lara Mallard’s English class at the Makerspace. The models are shapes or symbols from works of literature with quotes etched into the sides. - photo by Kristen Oliver

For decades, students have enjoyed reading “The Giver,” set in Lois Lowry’s aspiring Utopian society.

In Gainesville High School’s Ninth Grade Center, students are challenged with not only reading about a fictional world, but creating one of their own.

The Ninth Grade Center features a Makerspace, or a multipurpose room for students to try their hands at endless creative projects.

“The idea behind a Makerspace is that it is a place for kids to come and put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom,” said Misty Freeman, assistant principal at the school. “It’s about going above and beyond.”

Freeman said the Makerspace has multiple technologies available for student use, but the purpose of the classroom isn’t necessarily technology-based.

The purpose is tangibly applying what is learned in the classroom.

“It’s trying to get them be hands-on and to articulate, not only in words, what they’re doing and how and why they do it,” Freeman said.

Tammy White, Ninth Grade Center media specialist who helps in the Makerspace, said a variety of subjects can be applied in the room. One literature class, she said, came in to make digital storybooks.

“They took from a book they were learning in class,” she said. “And they came in here and used our software programs to create their own digital storybook, based on how they thought the author used point of view, conflict, interest, and adding to that. It helped them think out of the box and put their ideas into practice.”

Freeman said another literature class read a book set in a Utopian society. They came into the Makerspace and created three-dimensional streetscapes and worlds based on the society.

“Some used 3-D software, but some used other materials,” she said. “We recycle a lot of stuff, styrofoam, cardboard, tape, so they can use all that. And the thing is, could they do this in the normal classroom? Absolutely. But we try to have the supplies and resources here for them.”

Lara Mallard, world literature teacher at the high school, said she had her students read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis. They then created objects from the book — including Lucy’s cordial, Peter’s sword and the Narnian lamppost— using the 3-D printer.

“My kids were chomping at the bit to see their work,” Mallard said. “We’re going to find a way to hang them from the ceiling so they have a representation in the classroom.”

The Makerspace has also been used by science, math and social studies classes and more.

Freeman said a current-issues class built three-dimensional displays about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“These kids were only 1 year old on 9/11,” Freeman said. “To understand or relive that experience, they’ll never really get to do that. Their experience is very different than ours was, because we can probably tell you where we were that day.

“So they came in here, a massive number of them, and created their own models.”

The room itself is a product of student creativity. Much of the decor on the walls was created by students, including a pallet-board display covered with recycled pieces of computer hardware. Wood work tables are scattered throughout the room, which were built by students during their Freshman Focus orientation.

“The kids love it here,” White said. “It gives them a chance to not just be in the classroom in a lecture, but to take what they know and put it into practice. If they’re reading about circuits in science, their learning comes to life when they can come here and create a circuit. It’s wonderful.”

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