Creating a Community of Makers at River Ridge Elementary
By: Laylah Bulman, Education Strategist
Recently, I had the privilege of helping design and implement the new Innovation Lab at River Ridge Elementary, an accomplished and leading school in Leander ISD, near Austin, Texas. The school is led by Principal Shelley Roberts and Jennifer Passi, Instructional Coach, two educators who embrace the Maker Movement across all their classrooms. These leaders shared their vision of a community of makers, as young as five and extending into the parent and local community, coming together to further unleash learning and teaching. Together with UDT, we created a framework that scaffolded learning, from project to maker, entirely focused on the Texas Standards (TEKS) and Essential Units of Study identified by the school as foci for growth through the maker space.
The location of the Makerspace at River Ridge was a top priority. The school adopted a ‘hub and spoke’ mode of maker, which entailed creating a central space for collaboration and fabrication, along with mobile maker spaces, established along content areas and “neighborhood” grade levels. Location was not only flexible in terms of learning furniture, but the location of the maker was flexible to meet student and teachers where learning was authentic and contextual.
Moreover, the question of rubrics and assessment in Maker – often the most challenging aspect of Maker integration – was identified as a key pillar of their Maker framework. Maker demands student choice and open-ended outcomes. Learning how to scaffold learning into maker, from essential questions and units of study, moored in accountability standards, with rubrics that focused on process and critical thinking guided River Ridge throughout their Maker journey.
Reflecting to Plan
River Ridge, along with many schools that look to the STEM-infused Maker model as a framework for rigorous, engaged learning, are just beginning the process away from the models of old to adopting the highly-flexible, organic, collaborative, and tech-infused learning commons of today.
Infusing reflection prior to planning is perhaps the most consequential aspect to designing and sustaining a Makerspace and Maker Movement. As they now plan lessons and plan for the expansion of their Makerspaces, schools like River Ridge continue to evolve. Not all work is Maker – it may be a project that evolves into a sequenced PBL. By continuously reflecting on their purpose in their Makerspaces, they are redefining their spaces and the impact of students and teachers.
Whether in a classroom, mobile-maker hub, or fabricating in the maker space, learning here is transformative because students are acquiring skills that can be used in any environment.