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Sandburg maker space clubs give students choices

Sandburg maker space clubs give students choices

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Fourth-grader Andi Paulsen is excited to get the chance to spend part of every Wednesday afternoon practicing with a new band at her Sandburg Elementary School.

“I’ve been dying to learn how to play guitar,” she said.

The band is one of the options during Sandburg ‘choice time,’ when third through fifth graders participate in a variety of clubs. Started last year, it was expanded this year and is being supported by “Making Spaces,” which is a new partnership between the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler program, the Madison School District and the Foundation for Madison Public Schools to support maker education.

That partnership is part of a national strategy to sustainably integrate making activities into schools across the country. The initiative is being driven by a partnership the Madison Public Library has with Google, Maker Ed and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

In its pilot year, “Making Spaces” is supporting Franklin, Huegel and Sandburg elementary schools, Toki and Whitehorse middle schools and the alternative Capital High School.

Each school has created a fundraising campaign with the support of the Foundation for Madison Public Schools that will help fund these new projects. The website at gives more information about the schools’ efforts, their wish lists and how to make a donation. In addition to monetary donations, the community can also help with materials and expertise.

Donations also can be made directly through the Foundation for Madison Public Schools.

Besides providing professional development, the library has been providing support with planning, social media and other ways to connect with the community.

“This project is one of our first really big partnerships with the school district to use our expertise and pass it on,” said Rebecca Millerjohn, youth services librarian at the Sequoya branch.

The partnership plans to add five more schools this spring.

Sandburg Principal Brett Wilfrid said the choice time is designed to encourage self-directed learning.

“It lets us drive our own learning,” said fifth-grader Brett Wills, who thinks learning to play guitar ranks next to playing football.

This quarter, students were asked what topics they wanted the clubs to cover and a vast majority were interested in cooking.

“Sometimes my mom does all the cooking or she wants me to help her and I don’t know what to do,” said fourth-grader Rocio Reyes, explaining why he wanted to take part in the cooking club.

Joanna Whitrock, student services coordinator who works with students in the cooking club, said the club is geared toward students cooking for other people and hopes the clubs are some of the “out-of-box” experiences students will remember, she said.

Benjamin Hulbert, resource and personalized-learning teacher at Sandburg, has helped spearhead the making spaces initiative and works with students producing videos for Sandburg Community News during choice time. The media project was the brainchild of Chris Rago, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher, and started last year.

He said there are a number of students who are capable but not that interested in the general curriculum. So the school wanted to start with the students first to determine their interests and then design a curriculum around them.

After being less satisfied with the club he had in the first quarter, fifth-grader Eli Richardson found a better fit with Sandburg Community News and was serving as a reporter as students did interviews around the school.

“Every Wednesday, it’s a good day for me,” he said.


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