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TLDSB Using An Experiential Learning Approach To Inspire Students

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There is a team of educators in Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) promoting a vision for science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in elementary schools using Makerspace.

The #TLDSBMakers team established Makerspace as more than a physical location with some “cool stuff” in bins, but rather a framework for an experiential instructional approach. Students are inspired to integrate and apply their curricular knowledge and skills while exploring new interests and passions that will support their career pathways. Makerspaces can range from no-technology to high-technology, with teachers offering opportunities for students to use the resources available to create and innovate through deep and authentic learning opportunities. This means that Makerspaces are diverse and can contain a myriad of materials and technologies because it’s not the items that determine the approach, but instead, the curricular question or challenge that must be explored. This allows for multiple entry points for a teacher who is interested in using hands-on inquiry and project-based Experiential Education approaches to engage their learners, regardless of the tools, materials, or technologies available.

In both Grade 6/7 and 8 classrooms at Jack Callaghan Public School, Makerspace has been used to engage students in the literacy curriculum. They participate in hands-on project-based learning activities and self selected Makerspace passion projects including, creating interactive Tell Tale Heart dioramas with moving floorboards, flickering lights, and sound effects. Another example includes literature study in the housing crisis in northern communities as students prepare to build their own heated model homes with remote temperature monitoring capabilities. Through this process, students are also engaged in writing as they draft proposals for each project they design and build. Students who are interested in the arts also excel in Makerspace. They research and create nail string art, paint a constellation on canvas with LED lights in place of the stars, and build a guitar and a storage bench to store the instruments.

A second focus has been improving executive functioning in Jack Callaghan Public School through Activated Learning. When students are forced to create something original with no template to follow, weak executive functions stick out. With consistent check-ins, whole class discussions, and self reflection, students develop strategies to overcome these barriers. With Makerspace as the “car” and Activated Learning as the “motor”, students are developing skills that will allow them to be the leaders and innovators of the future.

In Irwin Memorial Public School’s collaborative Makerspace and learner-centred kindergarten environment, all individuals with various abilities and interests come together to be innovators. Students have the opportunity to use an innovator’s mindset to make and create through open-ended and self-directed learning experiences. For example, a cart for animals to pull, a new tool to help grab things, and coding stories. An important way educators support students through the innovative process is by noticing and naming 21st century competencies. In a time where growth mindset, resilience, and grit are highly valued, their team continues to provide learners with opportunities to solve real-world problems, develop foundational skills, and concepts.
They see daily the implications of how 21st century learning creates a pathway to the trades, engineering, arts, and beyond.

There are many more Makerspace initiatives in the works and on the go at other TLDSB schools, including a Grade 6 classroom with an integrated math and social studies unit where students explore the global community by role-playing international relationships with robots; an alternative education site using green screens and TV production technology to make their languages, drama, and health and physical education curriculum come to life; and a K-6 school that refinished a storage space into a fully-stocked workshop that classes can utilize to learn and explore.

TLDSB secondary schools are also using Makerspace. Gravenhurst High School’s #MinecraftGravenhurst initiative has students mix their inquiry into local historical archives with current GIS data to digitally animate the historic and current urban design of the Town of Gravenhurst using Minecraft technology. The final product will then be printed using a 3D printer and painted with historical accuracy.

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