Canby Elementary Students Get Creative in New School Makerspace

Students are getting creative in a brand-new learning lab at Lee Elementary School in Canby. Whether it be programming robots, connecting circuits or building with Play-doh, school officials say there’s hands-on learning fun for all ages in the new makerspace.

“Makerspaces are creative zones where students have the ability to explore, invent, troubleshoot, collaborate and take risks,” said Natalie Becher, the district instructional technology support specialist who took the lead in selecting supplies for the new space.

The large, flexible learning room boasts modern circular light fixtures along with windows and doors so students and the community can see the fun learning occurring inside the classroom.

Photos courtesy the Canby School District.

There are tackable surfaces, pegboards and whiteboards. There are sinks and counter space for project work and specialty equipment.

Mahlum Architects designed the space based on input from teachers across the district. Architect Abby Dacey said teachers wanted maximimum flexibility, balance between specialized equipment and multi-use supplies, and dedicated project storage.

The learning room provides all that and more, thanks to funding from the bond voters passed in 2020. One of the goals of the bond was to expand educational opportunities by remodeling or building new spaces to support increased K-12 hands-on learning, STEM and vocational programming within the school district.

Photos courtesy the Canby School District.

“At Lee Elementary, the bond promise was accomplished through the remodeling and development of a makerspace in the center of the building,” said Mary Dolan, project manager from Cornerstone Management Group.

“One of the main goals in remodeling this space was to create a classroom that is fun and durable to encourage students and teachers to stretch their learning opportunities. I believe this goal has been accomplished and I am excited to see how the school uses this space into the future.”

While the space itself was funded through the bond, the tools within were made possible thanks to a combination of district funding and a grant from the Canby Educational Foundation.

Photos courtesy the Canby School District.

“Funding the grant to purchase materials to fill the Lee Elementary Learning Lab has been a highlight for the foundation,” CEF Director Heather Zimmer said.

“The board is thrilled to bring every single Lee student the STEAM experience that they deserve. The freedom to create and explore, while enhancing curriculum, enriches the child’s education and perfectly meets the mission of the foundation.”

Becher was able to fill the lab with the best hands-on tools after visiting several area makerspaces for inspiration.

Photos courtesy the Canby School District.

“I tried to get a list of what they had, what they loved, what worked for the space to create our basic makerspace tool list,” Becher said.

The result is hands-on tools like Play-doh, Magna Tiles, Keva Planks, LEGOs, sewing kits, fabric, hammers, screwdrivers, tape measures and more. There are robots like the Code-and-Go Mouse for younger students and Dash Robots for older students. There are Snap Circuits, copper tape, LED lights, and coin batteries. The lab even has its own Cricut smart-cutting machine and 3D printer.

Teachers can lead students using a “challenge card” to spark an idea, or they can plan a lesson to build on something they have been working on in science, social science or another subject.

Photos courtesy the Canby School District.

“For example, maybe they are learning about earthquakes in class, but then get to go to the learning lab to see if they can build a LEGO building with a partner that would withstand an earthquake,” Becher said.

Becher and other specialists have spent time leading student sessions in the new space and supporting teachers as they learn to navigate the new tools they can access.

In the future, the district hopes to extend similar learning tools to all its elementary schools to provide even more hands-on opportunities to help prepare students for secondary school and beyond.

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