The Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford (SSDS) is incorporating social entrepreneurship in its Middle School through a high-tech Makerspace that shepherds students through the innovation process as they master new concepts. Each project focuses on an educational goal, begins with a concept and extends to design and implementation.
Fourth and fifth grade students began a unit on energy by designing and building wind turbines. Working in teams, students focused on wind energy and engineering to develop scale models that varied by base and blade designs. The turbine projects culminated with a visit from Gary Greenberg, president of Birken Manufacturing, who fielded questions about aerospace engineering and turbine manufacturing.
The mystifying reverse steering bicycle – aka the “Backwards Bicycle” – that was featured in National Geographic’s Brain Games this year inspired the students’ current (often confounding) challenge: To build a similar bike and adapt to riding it. Since the Rogow Middle School students first mulled over the idea, freelance creative consultant Stephen Potts has seeded the project by contributing ideas, technology and the raw materials. Students now have first hand experience tapping into the expertise of consultants and Schechter community members to collect and assemble the components for three reverse steering bicycles. Once completed, they plan to share their ‘product’ with younger students and surrounding schools.
According to SSDS science teacher Bobbi Woodbury, “the students have been highly engaged and extremely motivated to participate in all of our Makerspace project-based activities. They ask me on a daily basis if Makerspace could meet more than once per week.”
Head of School Andrea Kasper adds, “It is incredible to see the Makerspace evolve since we opened it three years ago. We are passionate about engaging our students’ thinking and problem solving skills with an eye on making the world a better place while helping them develop the necessary critical thinking and creative skills necessary in the 21st century.”
CAP: SSDS middle school students work on their turbine project in the school’s Makerspace, as Birken Manufacturing President Gary Greenberg looks on.