Grants to allow schools to create makerspaces


Students at two local middle schools will get to dabble with a variety of science- and art-related activities thanks to grants from the Dubois Rural Electric Cooperative.

Dubois REC announced the most recent recipients of Operation Round Up grants earlier this month. Among the seven local recipients were Dubois and Jasper middle schools. Staff members at both schools plan to use the funding to set up makerspaces in their school libraries. Makerspaces are collaborative spaces in schools, libraries and other public areas that are stocked with science, technology, engineering, art or math tools that people can use. Popular makerspace activities include robotics kits and duct-tape art.

Both schools received $500 from Operation Round Up to kick off the makerspaces.

At Dubois Middle School, staff got the idea for the makerspace from a presentation at the countywide professional development day for educators earlier this year. At that event, Southwest Dubois Schools’ Media Specialist Sarah Bardwell presented about the makerspaces in schools in her district. To staff members at Dubois Middle School, it sounded like something fun they could offer their students.

“I feel like we need to make school fun and a place kids want to come to,” said Dubois Middle School Principal Ryan Case.

Dubois Middle School plans to launch the makerspace with Tech Take Apart, an activity that will allow students to disassemble old pieces of tech equipment the school no longer uses. Other ideas include Sphero robots and duct-tape art, which uses the popular tape to create everyday items like purses and even prom dresses. Duck, a brand of duct tape, even sponsors a scholarship program for high school students that challenges them to make prom attire out of the tape.

Jasper Middle School Librarian Kari Schaefer has been thinking about adding a makerspace to her library for a while. Bardwell’s presentation earlier this year gave her the push she needed, Schaefer said. She plans to start the makerspace in the library next school year and envisions growing it into a club that meets during homeroom.

Schaefer’s ideas include making book art out of old books the library has pulled from circulation and Makey Makey kits that let students experiment with science and engineering. Some of the kits let students make circuits out of fruit.

Schaefer said she’s excited to get the program up and going. Her background is in English instruction, so she figures she’ll learn as much from the activities as the students do.

Operation Round Up is funded through Dubois REC customers who opt to “round up” their bills to the nearest dollar, with the spare change going into the fund. The fund awards grants to community service organizations in Dubois, Crawford, Perry, Pike, Orange and Martin counties. Applications for the next round of Operation Round Up grants will be accepted now through Friday, 4 p.m. May 31.

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