Over the past few years, the maker movement has been at the forefront of instilling in young people an interest in STEM fields, and in taking roles in society of producers rather than simply consumers.
In a white paper presented by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, MAKER-CENTERED LEARNING AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF, researchers developed a number of significant findings:
- Maker movement tools, such as 3-D printers and arduinos, are central to the future of manufacturing and the new economy
- Maker experiences enable students to become self-directed learners/problem solvers, and are characterized by empowerment and self discovery
- Students develop skills in evidence-based explanations
- Greater racial, gender, and socio-economic diversity must come to the maker sector
Groundwork San Diego, serving over 3000 students annually through its EarthLab Climate Action Program, is now developing a Sustainability Fabrication Lab at Millennial Tech Middle School. The goal is to ignite the passion of the makers movement in youth surrounding the Chollas Creek Watershed.
It is also an undisputed fact of the achievement gap. Overall, 82.3% of US high school students graduated from high school in 2014-2015. Whereas 88% of white students graduated, only 70.8% of black students and 78.5% of Latino/Hispanic students graduated. A similar distribution occurs concerning 4-year college graduation, whereas 60% of students in the highest wealth group graduate from college, only 32.5% of middle wealth groups do, and 11% of students from the lowest wealth group achieve this goal.
The Sustainability Fabrication Lab is located in a dedicated classrooms on the campus of Millennial Tech Middle School adjacent to the EarthLab. This designated classroom has been identified for use during school days, after-school, Saturdays, inter-session, and summer programs. The Lab will be informed by the successful Innovation Station, operated by Chula Vista Elementary School District, but the space will be differentiated by its focus on environmental sustainability. The Lab design will be led by former director of the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab and advisor to the Innovation Station. A feature of the Lab will be a school-to-STEM career focus, reflecting the trend noted in Education Week that middle schools are increasingly looking for ways to expose students to careers to keep them engaged and motivated (research shows that 60 percent to 70 percent of students become “chronically disengaged” in 7th and 8th grades, making it critical to provide an early sense of career options). EarthLab Climate Action Park field trips will also integrate hands-on outdoor science with classroom Lab activities.
The first group of Sustainability Fabrication Lab students are part of an after-school program called the EarthLab STEAM Team. Students are provided with a climate action/environmental justice challenge in their neighborhood. The students are provided the time, materials, and mentorship (UCSD students) to support their environmental sustainability projects. Driven by the fact that they live in the most park-deficient region of San Diego, the students chose to develop and physically create a park infrastructure model that will support community needs while also administering the use of green technologies. Students worked together to create and present their impressive projects to the class.