Faculty encourages creativity by chopping down wall: The Ann Richards Maker Space

Gus Dexheimer, Co-Editor In-Chief

Two weeks before students began the steady stream into the Ann Richards School, a core group of teachers and administrators brainstormed ideas for shop tables through the noise of a wall being chopped down in the eastern corner of the school.

This was the first part of building the Ann Richards Maker Space. In April 2013, Ms. Waugh and Ms. Wiersema submitted an application for a $100,000 grant from Impact Austin, an all female philanthropic organization. After a series of evaluations including student tours and a five minute presentation by Mrs. Waugh, Ann Richards won the grant.

“Their organization matches what we want to do,” said Waugh. “They want to empower women, and we want to empower women. As soon as I told them about The Ann Richards School and what we wanted to do with [the grant], they were on board. I’m sure we won by a landslide because our missions match.”

Now, two weeks away from the completion of the space, teachers have big plans for the unusual classroom.

“I just like the idea of really thinking about things that you touch and feel on a daily basis and how did that come to be,” said Mrs. Josephson, Principles of Engineering, Biomedical Design and Entrepreneurship, and Maker Studio teacher. “How many people have actually looked at a book and thought about how it was made? I like preserving the timeless ways of making or building things, that’s what I’m most interested in.”

The classroom once known as The Dirty Lab now contains two large glass windows and a collection of power tools and house-made shop tables. Within the month, if all goes according to plan, it will have a garage door. This Maker Space area is now PLTW and science teacher Ms. Sauter’s classroom. She, too, has a vision for the use of the space.

“I’m most excited to see what kinds of ideas the students have,” said Sauter. “I tell them all the time that they have better ideas than I do, and they prove me right all the time. I think as you get older, the opportunity for creativity lessens, and since they’re young they’ll be able to innovate on a different level than I would.”

 

The Maker Space features the drill press and brainstorming areas. Cabinets from around the classroom were reused as shop tables in the other half of the space.
The Maker Space features the drill press and brainstorming areas. Cabinets from around the classroom were reused as shop tables in the other half of the space.

 

The administration said they are encouraging every student to set foot in the space at least once and hope that this space will induce a new surge of creativity.

“I think that students are going to be learning from one another. I see the teachers just facilitating that,” said Mrs. Wiersma, Middle School Assistant Principal. “Not a lot of standing in front of the Maker Space and lecturing to you guys, but everybody just jumping into a project that they’re excited about.”

The building of the Maker Space has also inspired a campus and faculty wide adoption of a philosophy and system called The Maker Cycle, an approach similar to the Design Process, which has been religiously practiced in PLTW and engineering classes for the past seven years.

“The Maker’s Cycle, we’re already doing it,” said Mrs. Waugh. “All we did was put words around what we’re already doing, so that when we talk about dreaming or we talk about making, we’re all saying the same thing.”