Makerspace at Nixon Elementary School in Palo Alto

by Ruchi Goyal | 12/20/2017

Ruchi Goyal, as PTA president, shares what happened when mobile maker carts made their way into 12 different classrooms for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at Nixon Elementary in Palo Alto, CA. To the delight of parents and teachers alike, more than 240 students, whether working in self-selected groups or by themselves, built various objects using materials from the maker cart and encouraging creativity, invention, and experimentation.

Nixon Elementary school, with the help of Infosys Foundation USA grant was thrilled to set up its first engineering/maker space using mobile carts. The parent and teacher Nixon community have enthusiastically embraced using the mobile maker carts to introduce various open-ended learning concepts to the students. The carts have offered the students many opportunities to learn to solve a problem by collaborating, trying, failing, learning from why it did not work, improvising, and then recreating again.

This past school year (2016-17) was our inaugural year for mobile maker carts, and so we decided to keep it simple. We focused a lot on KEVA Planks, a favorite tool which appeal to every age group and teach very fundamentals about structural concepts. The KEVA planks force students to think about balance and center of gravity and help them understand the importance of a good foundation.

We did small projects with our 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. It was interesting to see how different kids interacted with these planks. Some older kids during their allocated time were constantly thinking about what they are currently building and how they would like to enhance the structure. Some students learned from each other and in some cases various groups also compete with each other to build the coolest, funkiest structure. It was interesting for both parents and teachers to see the progression through the year.

The maker concept also inspired some of the parents to host the Maker/Engineering night at our school attended by over 300 families. We ran some booths and asked students to build a few things using paper, tapes, egg cartons, etc. My favorite one was to create a packaging around an egg so that when you drop it from 10ft it did not break. I was amazed by the creativity of the students. Another one was to create rockets using paper and an air pump.

Overall, our maker program was a huge success this year. We at Nixon, are now looking ways to expand our program to get some engineering projects as part of the curriculum to support a growing number of students interested in this area. We are exploring free tools and affordable kits.

Thank you Infosys Foundation USA for getting us started.