Students Create and Collaborate in New Maker Space

What is a maker space you might ask? The term has been bantered around for a few years now and schools, libraries, community centres and independent facilities have started embracing the concept.

A maker space is a collaborative workspace where individuals can gather to create, invent and learn. These spaces provide access to a range of different tools, equipment and resources that may not be readily available elsewhere.

Jen Weening, Middle/Senior School Technology Academic Head, has been conceptualizing and researching the possibility and practicality for opening one at CDS for a few years and this September her dream started to unfold into reality.

Jen is passionate about student engagement and upon receiving the green light to proceed in June, spent part of her summer ordering supplies and organizing the new space in S21, a classroom twice the size as what she had envisioned. She refers to it as her “work in progress” as she is still awaiting countertops, bulletin boards and other furnishings to fill and modify the additional space. Her ideas for future expansion are impressive and she has embraced the philosophy that the sky is the limit.

While Jen has her sights set on the vast potential of this space, the students are living in the moment and coming in droves. “We have tried to equip the space with as many tools that students might use to design, problem solve, iterate variable solutions and create whatever they imagine. This space allows you to do rapid prototyping to solve a problem or find a solution,” says Ms. Weening.

The space is already equipped with 2 laser cutters, 2 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, T-shirt printer and professional 10-colour inkjet printer. There are two high-top counters where groups can strategize and design their prototypes. It is the perfect spot for the new Grade 11 Entrepreneur class to gather for class projects, as well as the new Grade 11 Non-Traditional Art class where students are working on mixed-media projects, both classes frequently relying on the new tools available. Ms. Weening is usually available to help answer questions and train students on the equipment during classes as well. She is already witnessing the seamless integration of a curricular course with real world implications. 

Lunchtime is also a hive of activity now that the space is open every day for students to stop by and witness all the possibilities. Ms. Weening is debuting a project each month, including make your own 3D printer keychains and laptop/water bottle stickers. Both Middle School and Senior School students enjoy “spitballing ideas” with her about all the possibilities.

“My goal is to get kids in here and excited about making stuff. I want them to realize the possibilities and implications. For example, if clubs want to raise awareness. I hope to soon have a button machine so we can print buttons to help them do that. Or if a team wants to print t-shirts, we can do that too.” 

According to Weening, the goal of a maker space is to foster creativity, innovation and hands-on learning. They are also a novel way to bring individuals with a wide range of skillsets and interests together to collaborate and bring their ideas to life.

It’s still early days, but the CDS maker space is already doing both!