Makerspace: STEAM Fun At DC
When Dayton Christian elementary and middle school students mention words like Keva planks, Ozobots, and Lego Robotics, you might assume they are talking about recess. You’d be wrong. Although these items sound like toys to us, DC students have been using these tools to deepen their understanding of the world around them in DC’s Makerspace room. They are studying science, and the fun is a happy by-product.
Dayton Christian School introduced Makerspace this year, a designated room for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) exploration. Led by DCES teacher Dana Pethtel, students in Grades 1-6 meet in her classroom twice a month to learn about rocketry, electricity, robotics, chemistry, and coding – and more is yet to come.
“Makerspace exists to engage students in science and technology,” said Pethtel. “Hands-on and active learning develops critical thinking skills and excites students about learning.”
The students are definitely excited. How could they not be when these STEAM activities are so much fun?
During each class period, Pethtel discusses a scientific topic such Newton’s laws of motion, buoyancy, or electrical circuits, and then tasks students to solve a problem with a hands-on experiment.
For example, students have learned elementary coding with Ozobots. These small robots run on tracks created by the students with special markers on regular white paper. They are programmed to respond to color codes drawn by the students. Recently, upper elementary students used Ozobots to complete the “snowplow challenge.” Students had to create a coded roadway and the design a cardstock snowplow attached to the Ozobot that would move puff balls (representing the snow) off the road in an efficient way.
Another fun project has been learning about block coding using Lego Robotics. Students have built a lunar rover (named Milo) and then programmed it to look for plant life in a Lego world.
They have developed building skills with Keva planks to learn about force and motion as well as construction design.
They have studied electricity and how it is provided to our homes. They’ve experimented with open and closed circuits conductors and insulators with Snap and Squishy circuits.
Makerspace seems to have fulfilled its purpose. The students are not just engaged – they are having a ball — and that is changing hearts and minds about science and technology.
“I feel like Makerspace makes science really fun. I didn’t particularly enjoy science before, but since Makerspace opened, I think it is really fun,“ said Ava Thomas, a DC fifth grader.
Another fifth grader, Grace Keith, echoed that sentiment.
“Makerspace is a whole new level of science,” said Grace Keith, another fifth grade student. “We get to do fun activities while we’re learning.”
In addition the elementary schedule she regularly teaches, Pethtel also taught a J-Term class to seventh and eighth grade students where the curriculum was adapted to be more challenging for these older students. And for junior high students who have caught the STEAM fever, the DC Robotics Club will begin March 10 after school.