Parents, Students Connect at Makerspace Night

Posted by Thomas DeLoughry on 3/4/2019 10:15:00 AM


The night was dark and cold, but Washington School’s cafeteria was crowded with hundreds of people - students, parents, and grandparents - taking advantage of the chance to explore makerspace activities normally enjoyed during daylight hours.

Principal Scott Blake and about a dozen of Washington’s teachers were on hand to greet visitors who set their own course through an array of stations that included everything from making light-up Valentine’s Day cards to constructing towers of paper cups to assembling duct tape “flowers.”

Map photo

One corner had a steady stream of visitors all night who were eager to watch Sphero, a small spherical robot, roll through puddles of blue, yellow, and white paint that art teacher Amanda Reid periodically poured onto brown paper on the floor.  “More yellow paint, more yellow paint,” shouted one boy, cheering on Reid’s expanding puddle as he waited his turn to use the iPad that controlled Sphero. The artwork created by the young Sphero drivers was destined to live on in some way at Washington, Reid said.

 Nearby, teams of students worked together on the floor using dozens of paper cups to build a variety of structures that included walls, towers, and even a pyramid. At one cafeteria table, old-fashioned Legos competed for attention with IO Blocks, a newer version of snap-together plastic pieces.

 Another popular feature was Ozobots, which are robots about an inch in diameter that are capable of following patterns that students created with colored markers on white paper. One color might cause the Ozobot to speed up, while another might cause it to reverse direction. While some students quickly scribbled patterns, others planned each line and color choice carefully as a programmer might plan lines of code.

Pyramid of paper cups photo

The makerspace initiative throughout Wyckoff’s schools is intended to get students to learn by doing. They come up with their own ideas, test them out, and then modify what they are doing based on what they’ve observed.

The February 7th night at Washington followed similar events a week earlier at Coolidge and Lincoln and preceded one at Sicomac a few days later. All of them are part of the three-year-old Connected Parents Series, which will feature Math Night, Art Night, and Family Block Play in the weeks ahead at the various schools.

Stacey Linzenbold, the District’s supervisor of special projects, coordinates the Makerspace Nights and was not surprised by the large turnout as she surveyed the scene at Washington. The first year the Makerspace Nights were in April where they had to compete with baseball, soccer, and other springtime, after-school option, she said. “We get a lot more attendance in January and February,” she noted. “It gets the students out of the house and parents love to see what the students are doing.”

As the event drew to a close, the most active corner was still full of  students who were combining tape and cardboard to build imaginative structures that some proudly carried out the door to take home. “It’s heartwarming because kids still love that stuff,” said Linzenbold.


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