6th Grade Makerspace: Learning to Innovate

“I don’t think the fish should have googly eyes,” one boy said as a handful of 6th grade students pondered a plastic fish with a magnet on one side and a newly attached plastic eye on the other. 
“But little kids love googly eyes,” a different student responded. They passionately discussed the pros and cons of the googly eyes on the fish and finally decided to use it. The students were designing and building a play fishing pond that uses a children’s pool with rods they cut out of PVC pipe and 3D printed fish with magnets attached to the back.
They were also using empathy to put themselves in the shoes of a younger student, collaborating on a shared project, being creative with the design of the plastic fish, and learning to make decisions as a team. These are all skills vital to success in the 21st century.
As part of their makerspace project, 6th grade students were tasked with making weatherproof, age-appropriate toys for the younger students to play with on the new Outdoor LearningScape.
“I was impressed with the conversations and compromise. They listened to each other,” Technology Specialist Cristina Knodel said. “They were all involved. Everyone felt like they were a part of the project.”
The students were working in small groups over the green tables in the Shark Lab. In the background, other children worked in small groups, designing components on a Mac to print on the 3D printer, sanding and painting a surface to make a chalkboard, cutting and gluing PVC pipe, and watching their ideas come to life.
A few weeks ago in the library, the students had been studying how little kids play to have an understanding of the subject and now they used this research to create their designs. “First we researched structured and unstructed play in the library. Then we brainstormed things we could make in the Shark Lab,” 6th grade student Chayce said.
The 6th graders learned that younger kids need outdoor play items that allow them to use their imagination.They thought about what types of objects they could create in the makerspace that could enrich unstructured play for Early Learning students at JCDS. The 6th grade students imagined what they could make and drew up plans. Once the students came up with the idea, they had to figure out “how do we do this?”
Sixth grader Arun said, “We had to compromise. We made sure everyone had a chance to talk.”
By designing toys for the Outdoor LearningScape, 6th grade students will see the younger students enjoying the ideas they conceived of and built. “The kids are very proud of themselves when they are finished because they built real things that someone else can use,” Science/Tech Integration Specialist Shannon Johnson said.
The resulting projects were showcased at the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Expo. Some of the 6th grade student creations included a pump connected to a toy car that makes the car move like a racecar. The team designed 3D printed components that connected a matchbox car to a pump. Another design was a sandbox with 3D printed “dinosaur bones” so kids can pretend to be paleontologists. “We thought about what little kids like and thought: dinosaurs,” Alex, a student who worked on the project, said.
“We persevered because there were many challenges and difficulties. We worked really hard so that the little children would have a lot of fun,” Ashton, a 6th grade student, said about the project his team worked on.
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Located In Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Country Day School is a private school for Pre-K 3 through 6th grade. JCDS prepares students for a healthy and productive lifetime of intellectual exploration, character development, and social responsibility.