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Student-generated design part of ISP’s newest effort mySci Do

Isabelle Jackson Cameron had an idea. Create a box to keep in the classroom to help students who get bored or mentally wander. She called it the “Personal Project Panda.” It was a box filled with different materials for projects and prototyping.

“You can make anything,” said the seventh-grader at Grand Center Arts Academy (GCAA). “There’s clay to make models or miniature prototypes. You can turn crazy ideas into real ideas.”

Isabelle came up with her ‘creative kit for on the go’ while in makerspace lab at school.

Around the same time, Washington University’s Institute for School Partnership received a grant from the Monsanto Fund to expand its MySci signature science education program to include technology. In collaboration with Maryville University School of Education, The Disruption Department and The Little Bit Foundation, the ISP created mySci Do, which provides materials, curriculum and teacher training. The goal is to enrich learning through student driven projects like robotics and makerspace.

“We had a concept for the mobile makerspace kits,” explained Victoria May, ISP executive director. “But then Nate Marschalk of The Disruption Department told us about the work being done in the GCAA makerspace lab. We loved the idea of including the community. They showed us their prototype. We tweaked it a bit, and this is what we’ll be using in classrooms.”

Inside the kits are simple materials that one might see at a craft store, such as: clay, tape, rubber bands, toothpicks, straws, pipe cleaners, and string.

Al Mitchell (left), president of Monsanto Fund and vice president of community relations, Andrew Goodin (center), Grand Center Arts Academy makerspace educator and Hugh Grant (right), chairman and chief executive officer of Monsanto Company, pose with GCAA students who show off their makerspace kit design.

The makerspace kits will be delivered to schools every quarter, fresh and ready for the students to use. Currently, mySci Do is being piloted in schools that use the ISP’s MySci curriculum and are served by The Little Bit Foundation.

The mobile makerspace kits were unveiled during a summer meeting of the Monsanto global leadership team. The participants helped assemble nearly 500 kits. Inside of the kits, volunteers left inspirational messages, including “Make a Difference Your Way!” “School is Cool!” and “Have Fun and Be Creative!”

Hannah Rohlfing can’t believe something she and her classmates created will be shared with thousands of students.

“It’s amazing, and honestly really awe-inspiring,” said the seventh-grader. “I want to be an engineer, so this is really incredible. I’m glad this is going to introduce kids to makerspace all over St. Louis.”

Having their design chosen is a “huge win” for the students, said Andrew Goodin, makerspace educator at GCAA.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see the Monsanto volunteers assemble an idea that was generated within our makerspace lab,” he said. “For the students to see their idea mass produced is an amazing learning opportunity. When you see the learning that takes place in a makerspace you understand why this is such a valuable learning tool.”

Seventh-grader Garrison Dill was in charge of empathy building. That’s the first step in design thinking. His task was to nail down the necessary materials for the kits.

He asked students, “If you were going to build a product what would you make and what materials would you need?”

ISP chief Victoria May says there is a compelling need in our region for a program like mySci Do – which creates equitable access to innovative 21st century learning experiences for all students.

“The sad reality is that we have many students that graduate under-prepared for the world and the workforce. Real world readiness depends on learning opportunities that develop skills in collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication,” she said. “mySci Do provides equitable access to 21st century, hands on STEM experiences.

May says one root cause of inequity is lack of teacher exposure, confidence and access to classroom lessons and tools. This program tackles those challenges.

August 2017 | by, Myra Lopez

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