Diversity & Inclusion
Education / STEM

This Wilmington school built a makerspace for 3rd graders

Check out the Tatnall School's new “Tinker Lab.”

Laila (left) and Charlotte (right) work in the Tatnall School's new Tinker Lab. (Photo by Lindsay Podraza)

Popsicle sticks, masking tape, rulers, straws and plastic spoons.
That’s all a dozen Tatnall School third- and fourth-graders needed last month to craft catapults as part of a new initiative to draw out critical thinking and inventive flair from younger students.
Last summer, Tatnall librarian Heather Brooks and technology teacher Colleen Hoban were inspired by the increasingly popular maker movement. They learned more about integrating such projects in the classroom at ISTE 2015, an International Society for Technology in Education conference held in Philadelphia at the end of June.
This fall, they transformed a reading room into the Wilmington private school’s “Tinker Lab.” It’s now full of books about inventions, cabinets stocked with odds and ends, and tables for, of course, tinkering.

The Tinker Lab in action.

The Tinker Lab in action. (Photo by Lindsay Podraza)


Sessions in the Tinker Lab aren’t exactly classes — they’re considered morning club meetings, and Brooks and Hoban said they specifically wanted to keep grades out of the lab. “There’s no pressure if you fail,” Brooks said.
She’s particularly enjoyed seeing girls take part in the lab’s projects, she said, which have included taking apart and re-building computers and making “brush bots” with vibrating motors and toothbrush heads.
Brooks said she’d like to target younger girls so they can become comfortable with tools, technology and learning from mistakes before they get to high school.
That idea seemed to be working as third graders Laila and Charlotte, who immediately began taping popsicle sticks together for the frame of their catapult.
The two high-fived when they sent a wad of paper soaring across the room.
“We get to use teamwork with friends,” Laila said. “It’s really fun because you’re being really creative, and I like being creative.”
Hoban and Brooks are holding the meetings in six-week blocks and will continue the sessions through the end of the school year. They said they’re excited to get a 3D printer for the lab in January and about the possibilities the Tinker Lab holds for their students.
“It’s really about collaboration,” Brooks said. “We want our kids to be creators and inventors.”
Tatnall students gather around a computer screen with pictures of catapults both new and old. Teachers Heather Brooks (left) and Colleen Hobart (right) helped create the space.

Tatnall students gather around a computer screen with pictures of catapults both new and old. Teachers Heather Brooks (left) and Colleen Hoban (right) helped create the space. (Photo by Lindsay Podraza)

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