Back to school: Portola Valley students get new 'Maker Spaces'


It may be hard to convince the students at Ormondale and Corte Madera schools in Portola Valley that what they will be doing in the two new "Maker Spaces" at their schools is actually work.

But by fooling around with the resources in the two rooms — including 3-D printers and robots, among them — the students may gain many skills they could need in the future.

"You can imagine how much they're going to love this," said Corte Madera science teacher Jeanne Rusch as she and the district's new director of learning and innovation, Jason Borgen, showed off the Ormondale Maker Space the week before school started.

"This is really a work in progress," said Ms. Rusch.

The room, slated to be ready for students about two weeks after school opens, will have stations for what educators call STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) projects.

There will be areas where students can experiment with circuits and other electronic components, where students can write computer programs and games, where they can construct things with supplies such as Legos and marble maze components, where they can make videos (including stop-motion animation gear and a green screen for special effects), where they can design for and use a 3-D printer, and where they can program several types and sizes of robots.

It will be a place, Mr. Borgen said, "for students to explore creative ventures and tinker." He said students should be able to discover "something they're passionate about" and "get deeply into" projects there.

"You want to create this generation of designers," said Mr. Borgen. "Problem solvers," said Ms. Rusch. "It's a higher order of thinking."

The furniture, which was still making its way from Germany, will be moveable and flexible enough that it can be folded and stowed away. There will be stools, Ms. Rusch said, because chairs take up too much room.

The Maker Space at Ormondale, which has kindergarten to third-graders, will be used for STEM classes in the mornings, and available to classroom teachers for student projects in the afternoons. It will be easy for Ms. Rusch to use the Maker Space for her science classes, because her classroom is right next door.

The two new Maker Spaces, their furnishings and equipment, are a big part of what the district is calling its "Next Generation of Science & Engineering" program.

The Portola Valley Schools Foundation raised $150,000 for the science and engineering program during the last school year. The program includes Project Lead the Way, which has lessons in science and engineering using projects, problems and activities; a competitive robotics team for seventh- and eighth-graders; and parent education in science, technology, math and engineering topics.

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