Second-grade teacher Barbie Carrier knew which items in her classroom game cupboard saw the most action.

“My kids always loved Legos,” Mrs. Carrier said. “Anything they could build with, they loved.”

Watching them build had Mrs. Carrier wondering if there was a place in her lesson plans for such creativity. Encouraged by a parent who is also an educator, Mrs. Carrier applied for a grant through the Calhoun Intermediate School District to build a Maker Space.

“The Maker Space will contain all kinds of objects that will allow students to use creativity and ‘create’ physical representations of their ideas,” Mrs. Carrier said. “Maker Spaces allow students to take risks and play, which is so important to the learning process.

Maker Spaces are popular with STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math] teaching. Mrs. Carrier wanted to fill her space with items she knew her kids loved – Legos, K’Nexs and Magnetixs – and incorporate Maker Space activities across the curriculum.

Students might work out math concepts with bricks, or build Lego landforms for science, or even create representations of a classroom with and without rules to better understand government in social studies. The ideas are endless.

“They can create whatever it is they want to create or whatever I ask them to create,” Mrs. Carrier said. “Another positive of the Maker Space is that it encourages students to be collaborators, which is such an important skill for students to develop for their future careers.”

When the Guido A. and Elizabeth H. Binda Foundation gave Mrs. Carrier the grant, she got busy ordering items to create St. Joseph School’s first Maker Space.

Slowly the boxes arrived, creating quite a buzz in the classroom as Mrs. Carrier assembled the storage shelf and stacked the bags of bricks.

Finally, last week, Mrs. Carrier gave into her student’s passionate pleas to “Open it!”

There are rules for the Maker Space, so the materials are ready for the next set of hands and the next set of lessons. Picking up means breaking down.

They are still waiting for their Lego table, which will have seating for four and brick platforms galore, but already their creativity has shown Mrs. Carrier she made the right choice.

“I have one little boy who is really into reading,” Mrs. Carrier said. “He made a book rest out of a platform and Legos. He put it on his desk and was reading away.”

The Maker Space also challenges Mrs. Carrier’s creativity, as she looks for opportunities to turn pen-and-pencil assignments into bricks-and-imagination moments. Whatever she uncovers, she hopes to share with her St. Joseph colleagues.

“I look forward to introducing and sharing this hands-on learning concept with other teachers,” Mrs. Carrier said.

Although the grant laid a fabulous foundation, Mrs. Carrier plans to build on her solid base.

“If at any point, you find that you have Legos at your house that need a new home, feel free to send them in, and we will add them to the collection,” Mrs. Carrier said.

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Questions? Call Cathy Erskine at 269.963.1131