A space to create: Lander-Grinspoon Academy opensnew makerspace for students

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  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth graders Bella Mok, left, and Shalev Cammy work on building a small sukkah. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth graders Shifra Kabakov, left, and Nathaniel Lewis-Kulin work on building their small sukkah, a temporary dwelling for the celebration of Sukkot, in the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth graders Oren Fishel, left, and Haly Doucette-Kaplan build a small sukkah in the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth graders Haly Doucette-Kaplan, left, and Oren Fishel wrap the walls of a small sukkah they were building in the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling for the celebration of Sukkot. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth grader Shalev Cammy, right, holds two sticks together so Bella Mok can tie them in place for a small sukkah, a temporary dwelling for the celebration of Sukkot, they were building in the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth graders Oren Fishel, left, and Haly Doucette-Kaplan build a small sukkah in the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling for the celebration of Sukkot. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth grader Damian Fishel scores a stick to cut for a sukkah he’s building in the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy fifth graders Damian Fishel, left, and Ben Starkman cut a stick for the small sukkah, a temporary dwelling for the celebration of Sukkot, they were building in the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy third grade teacher Julie Kearns talks about coordinating the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy third grade teacher Julie Kearns talks about coordinating the new makerspace at the Jewish day school in Northampton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lander-Grinspoon Academy Principal Deborah Bromberg Seltzer, left, helps fifth graders Shifra Kabakov, center, and Nathaniel Lewis-Kulin work on their sukkah. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 11/6/2019 12:43:06 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Elementary school students at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton opened a new studio this fall to allow their creative sides to shine. Two former classrooms in the private Jewish school’s basement have been converted to a “makerspace,” equipped with hardware tools, abundant art supplies, and plenty of counter space.

In essence, a makerspace is a work area designated for making, learning, exploring and collaborating. Makerspace For Education, an organization promoting makerspaces in American schools, says that makerspaces come with a complimentary mindset that supports a free flow of ideas. The organization credits educators Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert with developing the makerspace movement.

“This is the next step in integrating technology into the classroom,” said Julie Kearns, a third grade general studies teacher and Lander-Grinspoon’s makerspace coordinator.

The school broke ground this June and opened the Makerspace just a short time before the first day of classes this fall. New tables are en route to be delivered, but that hasn’t stopped them from utilizing the rooms.

The space also just got a name, voted on by students, and will be known as “Creation Station” or the “Yetzir Room,” based on the Hebrew word for “create.” School Principal Deborah Bromberg Seltzer said selecting a name was a great chance for students to simulate the voting process, as well as a way to further integrate student creativity — and all on Election Day.

Recently, fifth grade students of Neil Zagorin’s Jewish Studies class have been using the makerspace to create portable shelters. The huts mimic Sukkahs, or huts built of natural materials, that Jews construct every year for the Sukkot week. According to the Torah, these shelters were used by nomadic Jews after their release from Egyptian slavery. The exact dimensions are described using arm and hand lengths, which the kids at Lander Grinspoon scaled down and employ to build their huts.

“We’re making a box,” said a busy 5th grader. “We’re attempting to build the sides with yarn and the top with sticks.”

The children know that safety comes first and line up to grab a pair of safety goggles. Then they get their developing projects and go straight to work. The class worked in pairs for this project, and Zagorin said work in the makerspace is mostly “collaboration, partnership, teamwork, and trial and error.”

Kearns agreed, saying that project-based learning is key to operating the workspace.

Projects in Lander-Grinspoon’s makerspace focus on both extremes of creativity from low-tech, like Zagorin’s recent class project, to high-tech, like “Breaker Space” where students deconstruct computers to see their inner workings. They keep the dissected parts, storing them in a closet that divides the two rooms, aptly named the “toolbox.”

In addition, the makerspace houses the school’s own 3D laser printer called a GlowForge. One of the students’ first assignments was to design and laser cut a name plate for their lockers.

Bromberg Seltzer, the school’s principal, stressed the importance of art in the sciences. She believes that art is essential to advancing technology, driving the school to evolve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) into STEAM (with an added A for arts).

“The face of the world is changing, and educators have an obligation to keep up,” Bromberg Seltzer said.

Makerspaces are not too different from an art room. Some towns establish their own for membership use, similar to a gym membership. Nearby Amherst does just that; the space is linked to the middle school’s makerspace.

Lander Grinspoon has many ideas to promote the use of their new workspace, including starting after school programs, according to Bromberg Seltzer.

“Parents will be invited to contribute in various building activities, planned to begin in November,” she said.




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