On Monday March 5, Davis Academy’s 21st Century Learning Coordinator, Stacy Brown participated in a panel presentation at SXSWedu in Austin, TX a highly renowned segment of the SXSW conference geared toward innovation in learning. Brown designed and participated in a panel discussion that focused on the topic: “Makerspaces: Making Space for Diversity” accompanied by colleagues: Heather Moorefield-Lang: Associate Professor at the School of Library and Information Science at University of South Carolina, Andy Plemmons: School Library Media Specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary School of Athens, GA, and Gina Seymour: Library Media Specialist at Islip High School of Long Island, NY.
Makerspaces provide powerful learning opportunities when an element of diversity is purposefully integrated into the maker experience. “A makerspace can be designed as a place for people to connect, tinker, and design with their hands”, said Brown. “Makerspaces don’t discriminate. They serve as a gathering place for deeper exploration regardless of color, class, race, age or socioeconomic status. “As we are living in a world where teachers are preparing students for careers that don’t yet exist, it is pertinent that makerspaces not only exist to teach children 21st century skills to help prepare them for their future jobs, but it is also imperative that these makerspaces are accessible and relevant to a wide range of participants. The “Makerspaces: Making Space for Diversity” panel utilized library professionals with varied backgrounds to provide insight and resources to guide MakerEd facilitators in the development of their programming. This panel introduced ways to infuse MakerEd activities with content that will appeal to a variety of cultures, age groups and genders, and expand awareness of different socioeconomic groups in an effort to cultivate a broader understanding of the world and ultimately create a deeper learning experience.
Brown was inspired to develop this panel because of her work as the 21st Century Learning Coordinator at The Davis Academy, a Reform Jewish Day School in Atlanta, GA. Brown wanted to expose students not only to the diversity that exists within our school hallways and classrooms but also to the diversity that exists in the world around us. In her makerspace, Brown fostered an environment that encourages cultural awareness, while breaking down barriers that give makers the opportunity to travel the globe and explore new cultures and customs through MakerEd Activities. This experience compelled Brown to share the need for diversity in makerspaces on a larger platform, so she applied to be a panel organizer and speaker at SXSWedu and after a competitive review process was selected to present as an SXSWedu panelist.
“Having the opportunity to present, collaborate, and share with impressive maker educators from around the globe that understand the value of inclusivity was a powerful experience”, said Brown. “As educators, we have a responsibility to identify our curricular blind spots in order to enhance our students’ abilities to successfully interact in a globally connected world. As a result of this experience, I have a renewed sense of purpose and an increased exposure to tangible tools to advance the curriculum. I return to the The Davis Academy inspired to strengthen our community partnerships in maker education programming and to grow our innovative approaches to learning.”
Brown continues to bring diversity to The Davis Academy’s Innovation and Design Studio and Media Center, which serves students from four years old through eighth grade, by hosting activities suited for varied audiences with the goal of exposing students to other cultures and customs. Some of the programs that she has created for students include: building Buddhist Temples and Native American Villages in Scratch Programming, and exploring and creating sodas from around the world utilizing the Doodlebuddy application to create a brand and logo for the soda. Additional activities include using digital green screens to make creative films about the Taj Mahal, creating LED light up flags in celebration the Jewish holiday, Simchat Torah, and with technology, connecting students to individuals working to solve the water shortage crisis and challenging our students to develop prototypes of their own innovative water filtration systems.
For more information on Stacy Brown, please see her blog http://bytes-of-technology.blogspot.com/ or follow her on Twitter at @21stStacy. To learn more about The Davis Academy, please visit http://www.davisacademy.org or follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/AlfredandAdeleDavisAcademy .