When it’s time to get creative, head to Defiance County’s Maker Spaces.
From a chair made out of newspapers to obstacles courses, working toilets to buttons, a torpedo prototype to replacement doll limbs, a little bit of everything has been created at the county’s Maker Spaces.
“The Maker Spaces provides a space where people can learn new skills that help them in their daily lives,” shared Cara Bolley of the Defiance Public Library. “It might be how to sew in order to repair clothing or it might be a new hobby that can provide mental health benefits. Our space allows people to learn these new skills in a low-risk and safe environment. If the hobby the person decided to try doesn’t bring them joy, they aren’t out a bunch of money and stuck with a ton of supplies they won’t use. Another reason Maker Spaces are important is (they) promote problem solving and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) concepts for all ages.”
The main library location in Defiance has a designated Maker Space area while Johnson Memorial in Hicksville and the Sherwood Branch libraries have some equipment.
“We have some Maker Space users that come in frequently and are creating new projects all the time,” commented Bolley, adding that the Maker Space is located on the main library’s mezzanine.
The library offers open times for people of all ages to use the Maker Space. The times are not the same every week because of programming and scheduling. Hours can be found on fliers, social media and the library’s website. Appointments can be scheduled outside of open times by contacting Bolley via email at email@example.com or calling 419-782-1456 ext. 1108. New users do have to fill out an agreement acknowledging they know that the equipment needs to be used appropriately. Children younger than 10 need an adult with them, while those younger than 18 need a parent’s signature to use the tools. The library also provides programming which showcases the equipment such as laser etch ornaments, embroidery and stained glass.
“I’ve had a lot of people come in to make gifts and make decorations for parties,” Bolley pointed out. “Another common use is for teachers to come in to make things for their classrooms using the Ellison machine.”
She added that younger patrons have done some unusual designs with 3D printing.
“Kids have great imaginations, and it can be amazing to see what they can create when given the opportunity,” she expressed.
The STEAM aspect of Maker Spaces is what appeals to school districts. Several districts in Defiance County have Maker Spaces of their own. Hicksville Exempted Village Schools has had a Maker Space the longest as it began in the fall of 2017 following science teacher Nathan Ferrell
receiving grant funding. Funds went to purchase a 3D printer, programmable robots, Lego kids and other equipment. While the items were stored in his classroom as well as the library at first, the Maker Space has grown. The STEAM lab portion was moved into an outbuilding while some items remain in the library. Ferrell manages the STEAM lab while district librarian Christie Hoffman, with aid from elementary assistant library Connie Clinker, handles the library’s section.
“The Maker Spaces has been very popular,” Ferrell and Hoffman stated in a joint email. “Students enjoy the creating process and interacting with technology.”
Students at Hicksville can use the Maker Space during STEAM class-time or when teachers schedule time for it. Seventh-graders through seniors also can use the library portion of the Maker Space independently during homeroom.
Ferrell and Hoffman pointed out that students have used the equipment to make many things. Woodworking and metal/welding projects are popular in the STEAM lab. In the library, students have made art with 3D pens, taught themselves to knit and crochet, used a sewing machine, explored robotics and more. One seventh-grader even designed and printed a torpedo prototype for a history class. There also was the toilet.
“It was brand new and the STEAM class used it to learn about plumbing,” the duo explained. “Plumbing is not unusual, but working on a toilet in the library is.”
Students in other school districts also have tried their hands at making a variety of things.
Several other districts began their Maker Spaces around 2019 including Central Local (Fairview), Northeastern Local (Tinora) and Ayersville Local.
Fairview’s Maker Space started out sharing a room with the STEAM class. After STEAM class moved, the Maker Space took up the entire room at the high school/middle school, according to Terri Cooper, organizer of Fairview’s Maker Space. The elementary school also has a Maker Space, but a smaller version.
Cooper also observed that their Maker Space is very popular.
“Students are always coming in to get supplies needed for posters or various projects they need to create for classes,” she commented. “Teachers are developing classroom projects and activities that have students learning TinkerCad and 3D printers.”
She’s seen posters, props for plays, mini-obstacles courses for Ozbots and more created.
Fairview’s students can use the Maker Space during the school day. After hours, an adult must be present for it to be used.
“As principal, I am very pleased to have this space and the materials available for our teachers and students,” remarked Suzanne Geis, middle school principal at Fairview. “We focus on cross-curricular STEAM activities in this building in an effort to widen students’ engagement and educational experiences.”
Geis praised Cooper for organizing and gathering supplies for the area.
“The Maker Space has become a valuable asset in our building,” she declared.
Stacie Schroeder, STEAM teacher at Tinora, commented that the Maker Space is “a great way for students to learn problem-solving skills and thinking outside of the box. It is also a great way to strengthen their collaboration and communications skills.”
“Some of the things students have made are catapults, slingshots, parachutes, hoop gliders, design/build a family car, an ice box, a mini golf course, 3D printed key chains, towers out of newspaper, pipe cleaners or notecards and much more,” she elaborated.
Schroeder stressed that the middle school is the only place where the Maker Space is available for now. Teachers at the elementary school do STEAM activities. While the high school doesn’t have a Maker Space, it has courses that have similar activities. Tinora is still building its Maker Space program. Currently it is a course students in fifth through seventh grades take for a quarter.
“We are working towards creating an area in the media center where students can utilize (it) when they wish,” Schroeder commented.
At Ayersville, the Maker Space is part of a three-week special rotation for students in kindergarten through fourth-grade. The elementary school is the only building that has a Maker Space in the district.
“In our Maker Space we do coding, robotics, robots and other engineering projects,” noted Nancy Miller, Ayersville Elementary School principal. “Students love the STEM bins, rockets and robots.”
Ayersville borrows robots from the Educational Service Center to use. The district hopes to have its own robots eventually. She stressed that having enough room for a Maker Space is a challenge right now as is “not having our own equipment to reach the vision of our Maker Space.”
Miller proclaimed that having a Maker Space is vital for many reasons.
“It is important for students to have hands-on experiences,” she urged. “They also learn critical-thinking skills and problem solving.”
There is one other bonus.
“The kids love it!,” she exclaimed.