AP NEWS

A place to be creative

January 12, 2018 GMT

SPEARFISH — A drone flies overhead. Colorful designs made out of blocks adorn the Lego wall. A robot rolls through an obstacle course.

These activities and more simultaneously occur each week at in the Makerspace in Spearfish Middle School library.

“A Makerspace is a place where you can explore, build, and create,” Teri Bauerly, middle school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) educator, said. “We make things with different tools, materials, and technology.”

She explained that the Makerspace is available for middle school students most Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m., with more than 250 students attending so far this school year. Students can create, learn, tinker, design, and have fun in a safe environment.

“Some of our activities include 3D design and printing, robotics, drones, science labs (like making ice cream), card making, coloring, Legos, stop motion animation, circuitry, game design, coding, cardboard furniture, and duct tape crafts, to name a few,” Bauerly said.

Oz Kiger, an eighth-grader, said he’s always been interested in technology, electronics, and building things, and after checking out Makerspace after hearing about it from Bauerly, comes almost every week now.

“It’s a place where you can express your creativity,” he said, encouraging students to check out the space since it provides an outlet for them to experience a variety of activities they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to try in school until later in their education.

“It’s a fun after-school thing,” Zoe Cathcart, a seventh-grader, said, adding, “It’s kind of an experimental thing — you pick something up and you try it and see what it does.”

Jaydah Wickenhagen, an eighth-grader, first checked out the Makerspace with a friend who suggested it.

“I just fell in love with it, so I came back every since,” she said. She has since convinced her brother to try it, who also is a regular in the space now. “Come and try it. … It’s educational. Come and you’ll learn.”

The middle school Makerspace started during the 2015-16 school year as a result of grants provided by the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education and the support of the Spearfish Community Foundation to enhance STEM education.

“With this grant, I started our Makerspace in my classroom after school on Wednesdays with licenses for a coding website, a MaKey MaKey, littleBits, paper, and tape,” Bauerly said. “We have received further grants and support from the SFPE to purchase most of our other equipment! Most recently the foundation has supported our addition of drones, a new favorite, and the Piper computer kits.”

During the 2016-17 school year, the Makerspace moved into the library, and with librarian Monica Waugh and CTE (career and technical education) teacher John Dagit, the program has really grown, Bauerly said.

She added that the space impacts students learning by providing a place where they can pursue their interests.

“As students explore topics and create projects, they are communicating, researching, collaborating, working through the engineering design process, and building relationships with their peers and teachers,” Bauerly said, adding that her favorite part about the program is listening to how excited the students are when they share and teach their peers. “I love their shouts of success when they finally get something to work.”

She added that there would be a display set up from different grant programs in the school district, including the middle school Makerspace and STEM programs, at the upcoming Three Cheers for Education Celebration event for the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1 at the W.S. Tretheway Pavilion in Spearfish City Park.

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