When Leslie Mott’s students began imagining passion projects in March there was no way for them, or their teacher, to fully understand where the initial steps would lead: how could a 10-year-old imagine shrinking themselves down to elfin height to lead tours into their individually designed and constructed “fab labs”?
Grade five students at North Gower Marlborough Public School were most engaged during weekly “Makerspace” activities where they made crafts and used technology of their choosing. The question was, how could this enthusiasm be leveraged so students could have a greater sense of autonomy and purpose, and achieve mastery of skills in language? The answer came from engaging with mentors to work on a project sustained over a period of four weeks.
Student driven projects including pollinator gardens, a documentary film, an adirondack chair built from old hockey sticks, a self-determined deep dive into robotics and coding, 3D printed creations, and loom beaded bracelets culminated in a community learning fair.
“I coded…it was powerful learning…because it was hard; I had to get creative.”Grade 5 Student , Marlborough PS, OCDSB
Following the showcase of their learning student voice was clear: they wanted to continue on this path of experiential learning.
The class travelled to Shopify’s headquarters in Ottawa where they immersed themselves in learning spaces designed to enhance collaboration, creativity and problem solving. The visit acted as a catalyst for students to create models of their own ideal work spaces (“FabLabs”): students selected their own materials in a design/plan/build framework that developed into green screen movies where they were able to digitally inhabit their projects and share their visions.
As teacher Leslie Mott writes, “The engagement and motivation level throughout was extremely high, and students who previously missed school regularly, attended regularly due to fear of missing Makerspace. All students read, wrote, communicated and used media proficiently, often exceeding standards as they spoke about their projects, researched solutions, and created a range of media to share their learning. Rather than starting with curriculum expectations, students met expectations in these areas by starting with areas of interest and working with real world materials and skilled mentors.”
Learning like this is good for students; it’s also good for teachers. Engagement was a product of meaning and purpose: ”They could see where their learning could go, and what could be next for them, and they were empowered and excited by that experience.”
Oh the places OCDSB students will go this year. Where? Just ask them.