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New maker space at Galtier Elementary is a hit with students

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

A maker space is someplace where students gather to create, invent, tinker, explore, and discover, using a variety of tools and materials. No two school maker spaces are exactly alike—they’re as unique as the school culture they represent.

Galtier Elementary, 1317 Charles Ave., has a brand new maker space located in their Exploratorium/Library. According to principal Sharon Hendrix, “All of the classes (K-5) get a 50-minute block of time in the maker space each week. Suddenly it’s everybody’s favorite thing to do.”

Hendrix is a second year principal at Galtier, and a 29-year veteran of the Saint Paul Public School District. “I’ve been very inspired by the maker space at the new Bell Museum,” she said, “and it helped to bring my thinking to the next level of what a maker space could be. Our staff believes in the mindset of our maker space because it incorporates design thinking and collaboration. The kids are challenged to look at problem-solving physically, by manipulating materials with their hands. They’re also challenged to look at form and function in real, three-dimensional ways.”

Photo right: Principal Sharon Hendrix enjoyed Galtier Elementary School’s new maker space, along with a kindergarten class. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The open, inviting space at Galtier has several low tables, and a variety of materials set out for kids to experiment with: everything from legos, blocks, and marbles to Play-Doh and craft materials. Students either work independently or with a friend, requiring relatively little instruction or assistance.

Hendrix explained, “We also have a 3D printer which has been popular with all of the grades. It’s important for kids to learn how to code computers and, with the 3D printer, they can see the results of their coding. It’s like learning a foreign language, and it’s an important one to learn. 80% of the jobs that will exist for our elementary school age students don’t even exist yet.”

Hendrix is looking for parents and community members interested in volunteering in the maker space, either on an ongoing or occasional basis. The supervising teacher, Wilson Goss, would always be present, and volunteers would work with small groups of no more than five students at a time. All talents and interests are welcome; makers are artists, crafters, knitters, seamstresses, builders, programmers, engineers, painters, woodworkers, tinkerers, inventors, graphic artists and more. Contact Hendrix directly at 651-293-8710 if you are interested.

The maker space is part of the five-year vision Hendrix has for Galtier Elementary. “I wrote and received a 50K Bush Foundation grant last April,” she said. “We’re using the grant in a number of ways including teacher training to personalize the learning experience, and professional development on improving classroom management with non-verbal cues. There are a number of students enrolled here who are coming from difficult life situations; we can’t get to academic learning until we have success with social and emotional learning. Our test scores are still not great, but I’m hopeful that innovations like the maker space, along with our other efforts to personalize learning, can help to turn things around.”

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