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School Maker Spaces Getting Cool Tools

Photo provided Warwood School teacher Josh Yost uses a 3D printer to print a key chain designed by a student.

WHEELING — Today’s students no longer just take tests and check off answers to exam questions to prove their knowledge.

New maker spaces are being constructed at each building in Ohio County Schools as educators transition into a new age of education, and soon all students will have access to tools they need to create required projects to prove their learning experiences.

Cricut machines, 3D printers, microphones and Lego blocks have been ordered to stock the maker spaces — where students will be able to do anything from printing T-shirts, to wood carving, to editing their own podcast.

The tools not already in the schools have been ordered and are arriving daily, according to JoJo Shay, innovation coordinator for Ohio County Schools.

“As the bond projects are coming along, we are working in each building to make sure we have space for students for these activities,” she said.

The education goal is for students to create multimedia presentations in conjunction with the learning that is happening in their classroom. One of the items ordered for each elementary school is a padcaster, Shay said. The technology will allow students to create audio/video presentations from an iPad, and it comes with software and microphones.

One wall in the maker spaces will be painted green to create a “green screen” for different presentations, and there will be microphones specific for podcasting in the maker space.

Elementary and middle schools alike will get tools for robotics and coding learning.

“At the elementary level we are getting We Do Robotics kits,” Shay said. “The students are beginning to code, build and work with robots. We have had these kits in some schools, and they have worked successfully.”

Shay said she and other school officials have tried out each of the products for maker space first in one of the schools to see how well they work, and how well it can be integrated into the curriculum. Each of the elementary and middle schools soon will have their own Cricut machines, which they can use for pressing vinyl and making t-shirts.

“The students at Ritchie School just completed a project where they had to design t-shirts, and the students voted on whose was best,” Shay said. “Now they are in the process of making those.”

At the center of each maker space will be a 3D printer. While the elementary schools will get ones that use carbon filament to print, the middle schools will receive the Glowforge laser versions that print on plastic. One has already been placed at Wheeling Park High school.

The Glowforge printers can be used to engrave on wood, glass, acrylic and cardboard.

“Our students should have a lot of opportunities to begin to create,” Shay said. “That’s where we want our students to be thinking.”

Shay said her budget to equip the elementary school maker spaces was $8,000, and $12,000 for the middle schools. More tools are being purchased for WPHS, and the cost there will exceed those amounts, she said.

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