[More Than a] MakerSpace

Posted by Matt Soule on 5/1/19 3:18 PM
Matt Soule
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The MakerSpace at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School is a creative hub that’s stocked with 3D printers, circuits, motors, building materials, and the tools to make just about anything you can imagine, but it’s also something much more. The MakerSpace is allowing students to take control of their learning experience by enhancing CH-CH’s ability to teach the way students learn through real, hands-on educational opportunities.

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In addition to teaching in the Art Department, Chris Abrams holds the role of CH-CH’s official MakerSpace Evangelist, yes, that’s his real title! Abrams promotes the hands-on learning opportunities that take place when students are able to innovate, design, and build for themselves. “With the help of the MakerSpace, we’re flipping the teaching model,” said Abrams. “Rather than lecture, learn, demonstrate. It becomes demonstrate, learn from the demonstration, then discuss what they’ve learned.”



One recent example of this flipped teaching model is Sarah Orban’s Anatomy and Physiology classes, which utilized the MakerSpace in their lesson on joints within the human body.

 “This was a way for my students to learn about the joints in the body, by building them for themselves,” said Orban.

 Orban and Abrams worked together to design a three-stage lesson that would give students a complete understanding of the range of motion as well as the functions and limitations that each joint provides.



In the first stage, the students were assigned a human joint, and then were given the freedom to utilize the MakerSpace and all the tools and materials within to create a working model. “It was great to see the creativity in the materials used,” said Orban. “Groups used everything from clay to zip ties to rubber bands. One group even used three-ring binder clips to keep their model of the spine together.”


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The second stage consisted of a full lesson back in the classroom, where students learned about the joints, their function within the body, as well as the range of motion and limitations they provided.



In the third stage, students analyzed what they had initially built with their new-found knowledge of human joints. They then got back into the MakerSpace to modify their design based on this new information. As students hit challenges in their designs, Orban found that it provided great in-the-moment lessons. “One group was making a ball-and-socket joint which can be found in our shoulders or hips. When they added new limits to the joint that made it too rigid, it provided us with a great working discussion on arthritis and joint stiffness.”




The response to this hands-on learning experience could be seen in the excitement and dedication that students brought to their projects. With one student commenting,

“It was nice to truly understand the way joints work in a way you don’t usually get, by building them for ourselves.”



Sarah Orban demonstrating joint movement and limitation with students

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Chris Abrams helping students build joint models in the MakerSpace


Orban’s Anatomy and Physiology classes are continuing their experiential learning by partnering with the students in AP Government, where they will be conducting scientific research to inform healthcare policies. “We will be sending our findings back to the AP Government class, where they will write healthcare policy based on our data and statistics,” said Orban.


The partnership between the Anatomy and Physiology class and the MakerSpace demonstrates exactly the style of classroom enhancement that Abrams has envisioned, “CH-CH’s MakerSpace is another place where students are learning the material in a genuinely different way,” said Abrams. “It’s a place where students and teachers have the ability to learn from the ground up.”


Matt Soule is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School located in Waltham, MA. Learn more about the incorporation of MakerSpace in the academic curriculum at CH-CH.

Topics: Boarding School, Multiple Intelligences, Student Skill Building, Beyond the Classroom, MakerSpace

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