Even with tight budgets, it’s possible to repurpose your libraries or media centers into 21st century makerspaces
For many of us in education, budget cuts are always a possibility. The challenge becomes how to make our services and programs truly stand out to stakeholders, so that we’re truly transforming what we’re doing to meet the needs of our students in today’s world. With that in mind, we recently re-introduced our media centers to our district community, Brevard County Schools in Florida, as a valuable and integral part of a student’s education that supports 21st-century skills
Our “a-ha” moment about how to make this rebrand a reality came at a tech conference. With a colleague, the two of us stopped at a 3D printer booth and we both had the same vision. We talked about repurposing the media centers into Innovation Centers where students had the opportunity to experience STEM activities through a maker format. We were excited about the chance to give our students the opportunity to truly envision, design, create, and walk away with a 3D printed model.
We approached the Brevard Schools Foundation and shared our vision. At the Foundation’s recommendation, we applied for and won a grant from Northrop Grumman. In developing a timeline and plan for implementing the grant, we identified six schools where the changes would start and made sure that they were willing and able to support this new program. One of our goals was to make the program replicable and sustainable. This was our chance to create a model that could be rolled out to other schools in the future.
We conducted a great deal of research on the internet, at conferences, and through collaboration with others who were already implementing a similar program. We are fortunate to live in area with a large technical industry, and we capitalized on that by reaching out and collaborating with them. Northrop Grumman not only provided the grant, but helped the sustainability of this project through their outreach program.
In terms of products for the project, we decided to fund items in categories such as 3D printing, coding and robotics, building and construction, electronics and circuits, consumables, and other materials. We knew that we also needed to help provide a starting point in terms of rethinking traditional furniture and replacing it with collaborative pieces. Some of our schools needed additional devices like tablets or laptops, and we were able to provide a few for each school.
Our budget didn’t allow for a lot of furniture, so we selected some inexpensive, adjustable tables with whiteboards on top. We picked simple chairs in bright colors to make the space more inviting and lively. We purchased three daVinci Jr 3D printers and a variety of mobile devices for each space. We also bought a 70” Promethean ActivPanel for each of our Innovation Centers. These panels help students to collaborate on projects, 3D modeling, and communication.