We established our new MakerSpace which was initially used on a weekly basis by our STEM students, who in turn acted as leaders for the rest of our student body. During the school year, we expanded our STEM elective classes from 2 small classes with a total of 30 students to 3 large classes with over 100 students. Additionally, our students were provided with opportunities to attend maker sessions throughout the year in the mornings and during lunches. Our funds were used for the items that we expected to purchase including both STEM and craft/art supplies (a vinyl cutter, clay, glue guns and glue, craft sticks, pipe cleaner, sewing materials, cement paint, etc.).
The greatest unexpected benefit of the grant was the depth of arts integration into the STEM course and how it allowed us to reach outside of the classroom to impact the entire school, benefitting 250 students and 10 teachers with approximately 20 morning and lunchtime maker workshops.
One project in particular, decorating our outdoor classroom, was run by STEM students and art students. At the start of each school year Polo Park Middle School STEM students begin thinking about their 20-time projects. A 20-time project is a year-long project that allows students to focus on a topic that they are deeply curious about. Often times this topic takes little to no effort to develop. The passion for some students is already there. For others though, finding something that they are passionate about at 12 or 13 years-old can be much more daunting than it might first appear. Once the excitement of knowing that you can work on “literally anything” fades away, it can be overwhelming and difficult for some students to narrow their ideas to a single topic.
This year was no different as one group of high achieving girls struggled to find that one topic that they were most passionate about. They loved art, they loved sports, and they loved helping people. They started work on fundraisers for needy children who they wanted to have access to athletic equipment, but they were never quite able to get their efforts off the ground. They went back and forth with 3D design and app programming ideas, but always seemed to stall when it was time to move forward.
As we neared the end of the year they started freaking out. They didn’t think they’d be able to finish their project, but as we sat down and talked about what they’d done throughout the year it occurred to them that they had been doing their 20-time project all along without even realizing they were doing it.
You see, these girls had taken the lead on every art related project in our STEM class and gone above and beyond expectations. They painted the logo in our MakerSpace, led the sewing of the MakerSpace letters that hung in the window, and most impressively, spent countless hours of their free time designing, arranging, and grouting mosaic decorations for our school’s outdoor classroom. Their project ended up being one of the best 20-time projects because they were so passionate about what they were doing that they didn’t even notice how hard they were working. Had we not been able to put together the MakerSpace with the help of Infosys Foundation USA, there is no way that these young ladies would have been able to pursue their passion for improving our school through art.