Makerspaces Provide Creative Outlet During Testing

It’s testing season in the Johnston elementary buildings.

Understanding those long days of questions can wear a student out, Lisa Tegels, Wallace Elementary teacher librarian, modified the traditional library time to become a Makerspace/STEAM exploratory unit, giving students an outlet for creativity during highly structured testing times.

A Wallace elementary students tinkers with a Little Bits kit.

A Wallace fourth grader takes a break from standardized testing to tinker with a Little Bits kit, part of the Makerspace area in the Wallace library.

For eight weeks, classes come to the library for a dose of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Through Ozobots, coding, snap circuits, Osmos, Spheros, Little Bits, LEGOS, and animal sanctuary, students are expanding their critical thinking, self-discovery, and communication skills. During these classes, the library is anything but quiet.

“We really wanted to give students a change from sitting in their seats and going through a test,” Tegels said. “For the eight weeks, every single student in the building will have a chance to be at each of the Makerspace stations.”

Tegels explained that Makerspace/STEAM learning is, by design, a different type of learning compared to testing preparation and participation. For students who may struggle with standardized testing or simply don’t like it, the Makerspace stations offer an opportunity to build confidence and learn new skills.

“We keep the station groups small – just four kids to each activity,” Tegels said. “They are so engaged with the learning and able to immerse themselves in the station activities. Working in small groups lets them connect with peers or work independently, whichever is best suited to their learning.”

Last year, Tegels sprinkled in some STEAM fun during testing times, but not to the extent she did this year. On March 9, the weeks of Makerspace tinkering and exploring will be celebrated during an all-school Makerspace day. Here, building teachers will host different types of Makerspace and STEAM sessions for students to participate in all day.

“Students just love this hands-on, engaging type of learning,” Tegels said. “They are able – and encouraged – to build upon their existing skills each time they work with the activities. It provides a fun way for kids to challenge themselves and discover new interests, time after time.”