- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - Spearfish High School now has a space for students to let their creative minds grow.

This year Makerspace, or rather Makerspaces have been added thanks to a grant from the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education.

The Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/2mNMjoS ) reports Makerspaces are spaces that allow hands-on learning.

“It’s hard to define it as one space,” said Emily Benvenga, the high school librarian. “Basically, it’s activities that allow students to explore their own curiosities and to use more activity based learning.”

Those activities include a green screen studio, KEVA planks, wooden blocks; a Raspberry Pi, a computer that has its inner workings visible; puzzles, a sewing machine, a craft-making station, a portable recording studio and more.

Benvenga sent a survey to students last year and asked them what they were interested in and what activities they were curious about. From there, she and Alisa Bentley, Creekside Elementary School’s librarian, wrote and successfully gained a $4,000 grant from the foundation.

The money was split evenly between the two schools.

“Some (items) are more popular than others. That’s where the struggle lies with Makerspace,” Benvenga said. “Last semester some things were used more than this semester.”

For example, last semester, a group used the recording studio to make their own rap music. This semester, albeit early on, it has been used only several times.

The puzzle station is a popular spot as is the KEVA planks that allow students to build structures with wooden blocks.

“We want to make the library a space where their curiosities can grow,” she said. “To get them to think a different way, and to use their hands.”

Senior Chanley DeCook, took a break from his studies to build a tower Wednesday with the KEVA planks. He said these activities allow him to take a brief break from studies and let him explore areas he otherwise wouldn’t have in classes.

“I was nervous to start it,” Benvenga said. “As a teacher, it’s kind of nerve wracking to give up control and let them explore and work with different activities rather than step-by-step, this-is-how-this-will-work activity. But it’s been fun to see them jump in and work with things.”

Bentley said Creekside uses the activities a little differently. Once a month, each of the classes go through the library as a group and take part in the Makerspace. The same activities, including KEVA planks, are popular at both schools.

Bentley said knitting has been a popular activity, more so than she thought it would be.

Both said they plan to re-apply for the grant to gain more activities.

Benvenga said she would like to get a 3-D printer for the library.

Benvenga said some of the activities allow more collaboration among students, such as the puzzle table.

“Often before school, people will come in and will stop in and go, ‘Oh, that’s not our normal group that’s there,’ so they will join in, and there will be a mixing of grade levels.”

The high school allows use during free times of the day or during Spartan Time.

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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