MPA’s Makerspace intentionally provides students with opportunities to construct meaning through making with practical, hands-on, interdisciplinary, problem-based projects. In this space, students of all ages use design thinking to develop empathy with individuals and design creative solutions to problems through an iterative process involving brainstorming, prototyping, and testing. The Makerspace allows for the blend of technical and creative skills conducive to developing a well-rounded individual.

Kindergarteners are experiencing the immersive magic that occurs daily in our Makerspace. For one of their first projects of the year, the eager students gathered around Mr. Braafladt, the Makerspace technology and innovation teacher. They watched in wonder as he carefully demonstrated their tasks and introduced the letter block activity.

The first letters that children learn are most often the ones in their names. In early kindergarten, names are used to practice letter recognition, syllables, counting, and so much more. In this project, Ms. Santiago’s class leveraged the Makerspace to take this foundational literacy work to a more creative and hands-on level.

For this experiential learning activity, kindergarteners were given small blocks of wood with the letters of their names outlined on them. Their challenge was to glue different materials over these outlined letters, producing unique and personalized art pieces.

Ms. Santiago explains, “Even though this project gave each student a beautiful end product, it is a prime example of a process-driven Makerspace experience for the students. Mr. Braafladt and I offered a wide variety of materials and intentionally left the rest up to the kids. They had to decide which material to use, how to best attach the material to their letters, and how to troubleshoot the problems that came up as they worked. Process-driven learning fosters creativity, independence, and perseverance.”

According to a Philly Art Center article on the importance of process-driven art for children, “If we show them an example and proceed to teach them exactly how to make their project the same as ours, we have only given students one answer to one question and both came from us. But if we instead give them materials and demonstrate the many ways they can use that material, we are posing questions and teaching them to find their own solutions in a world of possibility.” The Makerspace letter block project is an instrumental activity in developing autonomy for young MPA learners!

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