BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Circular retro-designed couches, soothing blue walls and cabinets that double as storage units as well as whiteboards, are just a few of the new features in Gateway Middle School’s new makerspace area.
Located in the school’s learning center, the makerspace mirrors the type of renovation project that took place last year in the high school when the media center was transformed into the learning commons, said district technology director Jason Dugan.
With an investment of approximately $150,000, work on the new space began in June and included the addition of new paint and new flooring along with new storage furniture and new seating that can be easily configured to accommodate either large or small groups.
The students had been using the learning center for STEAM projects, which focus on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics problems. The newly renovated space, however, allows students and teachers to work on those projects in areas that are much more conducive to that type of learning.
“It did come out amazing,” Dugan said. “The space looks a little different with a newer, cleaner look.”
In addition to a common area, there are designated rooms for technology equipment, such as computers, sewing machines, 3-D printers and crickets, which are machines used to cut fabric and small, thin wood. The crickets allow students to make T-shirt graphics and stickers, Dugan said. One area has also been designated for painting projects and a larger green room is being created for video announcements.
Clerk librarian Michele Davidson said the new space has been well-received by both teachers and students.
“I opened on day one and almost every day the room has been full. The kids are all excited about it,” she said.
Davidson noted that she has seen changes in behavior, as well.
“What surprised me is how the different furniture has changed the way the students act. Now, they are excited to get their stuff and hang out and sit and read. That hasn’t happened and it is so much calmer,” she said.
The makerspace will be open for afterschool programming as often as possible and students may also use it on their lunch periods, she added.
In addition to Gateway, additional renovation projects will take place at the elementary schools, Dugan said. The focus of those and other future renovation projects will be how furniture configuration affects student behavior, he added.
“We are having discussions about possibly exploring that for the future for all grade levels for all buildings,” Dugan said. “There are statistics out there that say a warm classroom environment that has flexible seating and different stations can change student behavior and focus.”