Growing Up Making at Avonworth Primary Center, Pittsburgh, PA

by Maureen Frew @FrewsCrews | August 22, 2017

As a Maker Education Specialist for K-6 in Pittsburgh, PA, Maureen Frew was recently received a Leader in the Classroom award presented by the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. Maureen has been described as "Everything that is right with educational leadership. She is pioneering the maker movement in our region. Teachers from all over are coming to learn what she's doing, how she's doing it, and the best practices of incorporating the maker movement into the classroom. Maureen is one of a kind!"

The Avonworth Primary Center (APC) serves students in grades kindergarten through second. Students learn the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic as well as develop the interpersonal skills necessary to be successful in school. They are also introduced to computer skills, science, social studies, art, music, and physical education through innovative classroom experiences. Infosys Foundation USA supported a grant for a Makerspace at APC, called "Creation Station", to increase the center's ability to help foster the love of making.

The Creation Station at the Avonworth Primary Center is the major hub of the building. This area is a dedicated maker space for teachers, parents, grandparents, and most importantly our young students. The Infy Maker Grant money helped to transform the Creation Station into an area that allows young students to embrace the maker spirit and realize that it's okay to fail, as long as you try again. It is incredible to see the confidence, collaboration and creativity that 5 – 8 year olds are able to develop independently.

The Creation Station now houses a variety of hand tools, laser engraver, 3D printer, vinyl cutter heat press, sewing machines, and soldering equipment as well as a wealth of recycled materials. An extensive maker library collection is a new addition to the Creation Station, and at times, this library resource helps to jump-start the making process with younger students.

The APC staff has embraced the making concept with students and uses the room as the schedule permits. APC now offers after school making classes, Saturday making classes, and adults-only making classes. Within the center, there are adults teaching students, students teaching adults, and students teaching students. On Sewing Saturdays it is not uncommon to see a group of grandmothers teaching 5 year old boys how to sew a draw-string bag and the boys not wanting the class to be over!

APC also began a girl’s only group "JAM" that meets weekly to make a product, sells the product and then donates all the profits to local charities. They make things that they then sell, turning their profits into donations that help out wherever needed in the community. This past year this group of 5 – 10 year olds was able to donate $5,000.00 to local charities! They have made stress balls, silly putty, laser-engraved book covers, do-it-yourself Christmas ornaments, St. Patrick’s Day tee-shirts, 3D printed key chains, Valentine Poppers, and super science buckets. These young girls are strong and confident and understand that they are making a difference in the world.

APC students have hosted tables at the Carnegie Science Center, The Carpenters Union, TRETC and The Pittsburgh Maker Faire, demonstrating their making knowledge and skills. When these young makers engage and speak with adults, their innovative spirit shines through, reaffirming that APC and the Avonworth school district is headed in the right direction.

As a young student stated, "I'm growing up making!"