Students show off robots and other technology they helped build after school at Brown Elementary.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
JACKSON One robot fires miniature red plastic cannons with fierce accuracy; others imitate dogs. With the tap of a keystroke, a 3-D printer develops families of little filament creatures. Student-designed computers with Wi-Fi access operate miniature Ferris wheels.
Technology abounds after school at Brown Elementary School's STEAM lab.
This miniature artillery of whiz-kid innovation represents the hard work of students at Brown Elementary in their burgeoning makerspace, where they combine art design with science to create cool new things as part of their STEAM—STEM, plus art and design—curriculum. A 2014 STEM grant from the Toyota USA Foundation and the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation funds the program at the school.
Fifth-grade STEAM teacher Catherine Sarenac, who facilitates the program after school with husband Darko Sarenac, says the program's funding allows them to provide new materials for the participating kindergarteners through fifth grade students. She they hope to establish a makerspace in midtown.
"Our goal for our makerspace students is for them to see themselves as makers and builders using the most cutting-edge and innovative technology," she said in a JPS press release. "We want to move them from consumers of technology to creators of technology."
Makerspaces, also referred to as hackerspaces, are community workplaces that host a variety of tools and materials participants can use to create different projects. From welding materials to free software, users can collaborate and learn from their peers. Some makerspaces focus exclusively on music.
The community labs have grown in popularity over the past three decades and are usually located in community centers, or near or on college and university campuses. Mississippi State University in Starkville was one of the first colleges in the state to establish one, with The Factory open to students on-campus; the University of Mississippi in Oxford is rolling out its own as well.
At Fondren's First Thursday tonight, Brown Elementary students will bring their technological expertise to a pop-up makerspace, where the public can interact with some of the technology the students use after school, and their work with local design studio NunoErin. You can find the students in the parking lot by St. Luke's United Methodist Church from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sierra Mannie is an education reporting fellow at the Jackson Free Press and The Hechinger Report. Email her at [email protected].