- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - A new educational program at Cedar Ridge Middle has raised the noise level in the school’s usually quiet library, and Librarian Tracy Glenn and Principal Johnnie Renick couldn’t be happier.

After almost a year of planning, the school has opened the first stage of its “makerspace” classroom in two corners of the library.

Makerspace provides a hands-on environment that encourages students to create, design, experiment and build projects while engaging in science, technology, engineering, math and the arts.

The noise level comes from the interaction among students. Glenn said she welcomes the cacophony because it means students are thinking out loud to solve problems.

“Just look at the smiles,” she said. “Just about every student that has come in here tells me how much they love this place.”

In one section of the library, a group of students with iPads was trying to figure out how to get robots to climb a ramp. In another, Anna Roach, Landon Czajkowski, Santiago Carnelio and Payson Hubbard were discussing how to stop marbles from jumping the curb before reaching the bottom of a tower they had constructed.

“We’ve got to slow down how fast they are rolling in the curb,” Roach said.

“Just put a plastic wall there,” Czajkowski responded.

The student’s suggestion worked and all of this happened around a $20 plastic game.

“I don’t know how you put a price on this learning,” Renick said.

On the other side of the library, sixth-graders Zyrell Black and Jake Smith - with the help of some of their classmates - figured out how to get robots over the ramp. Then, they started discussing ways to maneuver the robots around table legs.

“It’s fun to come to the library,” Smith said. “I like this.”

Said Glenn: “They are learning while having fun and don’t realize it.”

Renick, who became principal at Cedar Ridge in 2015, said she followed the makerspace concept for several years and wanted to start one because the space allows students to “figure out” projects in several areas.

“They are not guided by teachers,” Renick said. “It’s them with their classmates, and they have to strategize.”

A school committee - with a limited budget - picked most of the materials students use. One of the most popular materials is a word game students play with an Osmo device and iPad. An image comes up on the screen and students have to figure out the word it conveys. Once they do, they have to find letters and place them on the board to spell the word. Each letter counts two points, and the first team to 100 wins.

“All of the students enjoy this game,” Glenn said.

Renick said none of the school’s almost 830 students miss core subjects because they come to the makerspace room while in elective classes.

“We want every student to come at least once per week,” she said.

Montavius Troupe, Amaya Gibbs and Black said they wanted to come more often.

“I just like creating things,” Troupe said.

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Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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