Maker Education

Was “Old School” So Bad? Part 2

January 4, 2016

My school (the 'Iolani School) has been around for over 150 years. We have a lot of "Old School" traditions. But we also realize the importance of getting our students ready for the future. John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

In 2013, we opened the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership on our 25 acre campus. This complex includes the library, flexible meeting spaces, a computer lab, a wet lab, offices as well as the iLab makerspace. This building was constructed for the Upper School students, but the 'Iolani leadership quickly realized the importance of a dedicated makerspace for the Lower School as well. Our Lower School space opened in August 2014 and is open for Kdg-6th grade.

Over the past year, the Lower School Lab has been able to assist students and teachers in using modern technology to complete "Old School" tasks. For example: in the past, the kindergarten students made garden stakes out of cardboard. They would write and draw on a piece of cardboard and cut out the stake. The teacher would then laminate them and hope it would last the growing season out in the garden. Now, students go through the design process. They imagine, plan, and create prototype cards out of paper. After the prototypes are improved, and when the information on the cards is the way the students want them, then they create a final version. The students come to the Lab where we scan their creation, send it to the laser cutter, and their garden stake is cut out of wood.

First grade studies the rainforest. This year, as part of the unit, small groups of students used design thinking to plan a new animal that would live in a certain zone of the rainforest. During their planning stage, students came to the Lab for a mini lesson on attaching materials. Once they were ready to create, students' creatures began to take shape. Sometimes they had to reexamine the plan and make improvements. Other times they had to rethink the type of material they were using.

As part of a unit of space, third grade students imagine, plan, design and create spacecraft out of recycled material. There is also a research/writing component. They have been doing this "making" project for years. With the creation of the Lab, students are going to be incorporating "Makey Makey's" to make their spacecraft interactive.

Our 6th graders have a big "Medieval Faire" in the spring. Every discipline (math, science, language, social studies, dance, religion, etc.) is involved for 4 weeks or more in preparation for the big day. Before the Lab, students would go create their signs, swords, games, instruments, etc. at home with their parents help. Last year was the first time our Lab was able to assist the students in making things. About one quarter of the sixth grade come into the Lab to create something...on their own.

'Iolani has taken "Old School" into the modern era. There are many more examples of how our teachers get kids to be actively involved in their learning. Projects where making takes place (both in the classroom and in the Lab). Our teachers realize the importance of "Old School" at the same time, making use of today's technology. As our students move to the Upper School, we still offer "Old School shop" classes. But the Sullivan Center also has Make It 101, Design & Fabrication, Robotics I & II, and Electronics & Embedded Design. There are also classes on video game design, iPad App Design & Development and Applied Renewable Energy Systems.

So, was "Old School" so bad? "Old School" got us to the moon and back. "Old School" brought about the creation of the personal computer. A lot of good came out of "Old School." But if we can take the best of what worked back then, like "making" in the classroom, and modernize it with the technologies of today, like we find in makerspaces, then students will be engaged to create a better future...making today "Old School."

How are you and your students doing it "Old School"?

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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  • Maker Education
  • Integrated Studies
  • K-2 Primary
  • 3-5 Upper Elementary

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