Minter Creek Elementary School Principal Todd Hering is enthusiastically supportive of the Makers Space program launched in January 2023. The program is set up to serve one grade level per session, and the sessions are scheduled Monday through Thursday during midday recess time.
Hering credits Dean of Students Kim Kinney for bringing the idea to Minter Creek and organizing the program.
“Not all kids want to be here, but for some students who feel uncomfortable in unstructured environments like recess, here we give them choices within a slightly structured environment,” Kinney said.
Both Hering and Kinney praised the PTA for funding purchases to equip the room with basic art supplies: paint, brushes, markers, glue, tape, scissors, paper and Legos.
“We just wanted the kids to have a creative space, I want the kids to be able to work collaboratively,” Kinney said. “We started in January with the ‘cardboard challenge.’ It cost little to nothing because we used recycled cardboard and the kids had fun figuring out how to build something using just cardboard and electrical tape. It was a hit before it really opened.”
Kinney said the isolation of school closures during the pandemic and a dependence upon technology affected some students, because they missed out on developing skills to interact with others. Makers Space is designed to provide opportunities for students to work together.
“I have watched students sit across the table from one another and they will be messaging rather than talking. Tech can be so powerful, but it can also be isolating,” she said.
Makers Space works because the school librarian, Adam Sripranaratanakul, known as Mr. S to the students, greets the students, provides brief instruction about using the materials and supervises the session. Kinney invites teachers to contribute ideas, plans the activities, and set up the room and materials for Mr. S, so no Makers time is wasted.
Last month was the Cardboard Challenge. This month is Friendship February.
A fifth-grade activity involved students making fusible bead designs. Students could create their own designs or follow patterns that came with kits donated by the Gig Harbor Sewing Guild.
Another session was for second-graders who were enthusiastic about cutting out hearts, choosing stickers and decorating Valentines.
The primary goal of Makers Space is to encourage creativity, problem-solving and collaborative thinking. The appropriate use of available materials is stressed to help students develop a sense of responsibility for the space and the materials.
“I would like for the room to function on its own once the kids develop more skills, including learning to tidy up,” Kinney said. “I tell them, ‘If you are not cleaning it up, you are not using the space responsibly, you will not be getting an invitation to return.”
Students seemed to be very cognizant of the need to clean up after themselves.
To keep the midday program manageable, each Makers Space session is limited to 16 students from one grade level. Grade levels get one session per week. There are two classes per grade at Minter Creek, so each teacher can distribute up to eight tickets to their students.
Kinney said she was pleasantly surprised by community support. The Gig Harbor Sewing Guild arranged for the acquisition of sewing machines to support the idea of a Sewing Club for fifth-graders. The machines had been taken in for repairs, but left at the JoAnn’s store in Port Orchard when owners decided to upgrade. JoAnn’s repaired the machines and donated them to the school. Parents, members of the Guild, and Sew Hip in Gig Harbor donated sewing notions and fabric.
Three boys signed up for the Sewing Club, which meets in the same room but is not part of the Makers Space program. The stated interest of the boys was utilitarian; they wanted to learn how to sew on buttons and fix rips in jeans. The introductory session involved learning to thread the machines and safely operate them; next installment is to learn about threading and winding bobbins.
Andrea Smith, a mom of a fourth-grader, a parent volunteer and a Minter Creek paraeducator, delivered an armload of fleece to the Sewing Club. “My daughter was really bummed that only fifth-graders were invited, but I told her she will get there eventually,” Smith said.
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