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Changing the face of education in Stamford

Wouldn’t it be great if someone designed a speaker capable of amplifying the sound on an IPhone so that you could actually, well, hear it?

Wishful thinking? Maybe. Still, a group of middle-schoolers at Bi-Cultural Day School have their sights set on making this very wish come true.

The budding inventors are just a sampling of the students bringing their bright ideas to life in Bi-Cultural’s unique Makerspace Lab. Since it was unveiled a year ago, the big, bustling, colorful space has become a hub of student activity and creativity. On any given day, students throughout the grades wander in and out of the lab, working – sometimes individually, often collaboratively; as part of a class or on their own – to transform a laundry list of innovative concepts into tangible products.

“It’s a constructive approach to learning that is really changing the face of education,” says Adrienne Robinson of Makerspace, a nationally renowned STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, art and math) initiative that focuses on design, invention, creativity and critical thinking. The idea is to use things to create things.”

Robinson, a Bi-Cultural middle school teacher, and Beth Fritz, who teaches third grade, teamed up to bring Makerspace to Bi-Cultural in February 2016. Today, the Stamford day school is one of only a handful of Connecticut schools to foster student creativity through the Makerspace program.

The space is divided into a series of engaging work areas, each one devoted to a distinct method of tinkering – from a full-scale Lego wall to a pegboard equipped with traditional tools such as hammers and screwdrivers to a corner for woodworking to a bank of sewing machines and quilting supplies. In addition to tools and building materials, the lab features a 3D printer attached to a standalone PC loaded with the most current 3D software.

This spring, students will have the opportunity to showcase the fruits of their creative labor at Bi-Cultural’s first-ever Makerspace Faire. Open to students, parents and invited guests, the May 18 fair will include an exhibit by the students of the Jewish High School of Connecticut. Several Connecticut organizations will also participate in the fair, including Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum, the University of Connecticut, Home Depot, and STEMfems, a program of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame that encourages young girls to pursue studies in science, engineering and medicine.

“You can see the success of the Makerspace program in the way they approach problem-solving. They’re not afraid; they don’t run away. You can even see it in the way they interact at recess. It’s a whole different culture,” says Robinson.

CAP: The Bi-Cultural middle school Makerspace Elective worked through the Design Theory to finetune their prototypes. Photo credit: Adrienne Robinson.

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