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Leadership Project: Executive Summary

Elevating Education: Chester Academy's Makerspace Journey

At Chester Academy, my involvement in the Makerspace Pilot Program has been multifaceted and strategic, collaborating closely with the purchasing agent to acquire a range of advanced manufacturing technologies, and coordinating with the tech team for their setup. This significant initiative is part of a broader educational strategy, aiming to elevate our curriculum by integrating cutting-edge technologies, thereby enriching the educational experiences for both staff and students. The technologies acquired span across various domains, including 3D fabrication with PLA printers and epoxy, textile and design technologies such as direct-to-garment printers and vinyl cutters, and cutting-edge equipment for cutting, engraving, robotics, and electronics. Moreover, immersive technologies like virtual reality headsets and digital media tools like green screens and podcasting setups have been introduced, providing students with hands-on, innovative learning opportunities.

These collaborative efforts between staff and students are vital to seamlessly integrate these technologies into teaching and learning processes. My role has been pivotal in guiding teachers and students in incorporating these technologies into their projects and classrooms. As a result, the Makerspace Public Learning Committee (PLC) was formed, comprising educators from various disciplines, to explore the potential of these technological tools. The PLC, having crafted a vision and mission for the makerspace, aligns with the school's broader objectives and STEAM education principles. The pilots initiated, ranging from creative projects in culinary arts to digital media, are a testament to our commitment to integrating technology in education. These projects not only engage students in technological applications but also enhance their problem-solving skills, preparing them for a technologically evolving future. In addition to these initiatives, future pilots are planned to cover a diverse range of subjects, further extending the impact of the makerspace across the educational spectrum.

A Comprehensive Integration of Advanced Technologies in Education

Building on the comprehensive framework of the Makerspace Pilot Program at Chester Academy, my role further involved collaborating closely with the purchasing agent to acquire advanced manufacturing technologies and working with the tech team for their setup. This initiative was part of a broader strategy to elevate the existing curriculum and projects by integrating these new technologies, enhancing the educational experience for staff and students.

Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Acquired:

3D Fabrication:

  • 3D PLA Printers: Facilitates three-dimensional printing using PLA (Polylactic Acid), a biodegradable thermoplastic.

  • 3D Epoxy: Adds to the 3D printing capabilities with the use of epoxy materials for creating more durable and diverse objects.

Textile and Design Technologies:

  • Direct to Garment Printer: Enables high-quality printing directly on various fabrics.

  • T-Shirt Press: Essential for heat-pressing designs onto T-shirts, enhancing custom apparel creation.

  • Vinyl Printer and Plotter: Broadens the scope for designing and cutting vinyl for various applications.

Cutting & Engraving:

  • Vinyl Cutter: Aids in precise cutting of vinyl for diverse design projects.

  • Laser Cutter/Engraver: Allows for intricate cutting and engraving on various materials, elevating the level of detail and precision in student projects.

Robotics & Electronics:

  • Vex Robotics: Provides a platform for students to engage in advanced robotics projects.

  • Hummingbird Robotics: Enhances the learning experience with accessible robotics kits.

  • Arduinos and Raspberry Pi: Offers opportunities for students to delve into electronics and computer programming.

CNC & Milling Equipment:

  • CNC Routers: Introduces students to computer-controlled cutting for various materials.

  • Milling Machine: Expands the possibilities in precision material shaping and design.

Immersive Technologies:

  • Virtual Reality Headsets: Opens up new realms for immersive learning experiences.

  • 3D Scanner: Allows for digitizing objects into 3D models, facilitating various design and analysis activities.

Digital Media Technologies:

  • Green Screen Setup: Enables creative video projects with customizable backgrounds.

  • Podcasting Setup: Provides the necessary tools for high-quality audio recording and podcast production.

Collaborative Efforts:

  • With Staff: I collaborated with the faculty to integrate these technologies into their teaching methods and projects, thereby enriching the curriculum and offering more engaging, hands-on learning experiences to students.

  • With Students: Direct engagement with students was vital. I provided guidance and assistance in implementing these technologies in their independent projects, fostering a deeper understanding and practical application of their learning.

This initiative represents a significant step in modernizing educational practices at Chester Academy, integrating advanced technologies into various aspects of learning and teaching. It not only broadens the technological horizon for students but also equips them with the skills and knowledge necessary for the future, aligning with the school's vision of fostering innovation and excellence in STEAM education.

Makerspace Public Learning Committee

The Makerspace Public Learning Committee (PLC) at Chester Academy, comprising educators across various disciplines, was established to explore and understand the potential of different technological equipment within the makerspace. The committee includes representatives from Family & Consumer Science, Librarian, Technology Education, Band, Visual Arts, and Vocal Music departments.

So far, the PLC has convened three times and has plans for three more meetings, each focusing on specific topics or equipment within the makerspace, such as laser cutting, vinyl cutting, 3D printing, and podcasting. These sessions are aimed at gaining a comprehensive overview of the makerspace and its capacities.

The committee at Chester Academy meticulously crafted the vision and mission for the makerspace, ensuring they resonate with the broader objectives of the district and embody the core principles of STEAM education.

The Vision Statment

  • At Chester Academy Makerspace, we envision a dynamic and transformative learning environment where every student becomes a trailblazer in STEAM. Our space is a crucible for innovation, where young minds are empowered to master academic content through hands-on experiences. We are committed to nurturing articulate, confident communicators, strategic technology users, and ethical citizens. Our vision extends beyond the classroom, fostering a future where our students are not only self-directed learners but also pioneering leaders who excel in collaborative, creative problem-solving and make a significant impact in their communities and the world at large

The Mission Statment

  • Our mission at Chester Academy Makerspace is to provide an enriching, student-centered learning hub that champions the integration of the Engineering Design Process, digital fabrication, computer science, and digital literacy. By embracing Project-Based Learning and fostering strong partnerships with local businesses and higher education institutions, we are dedicated to equipping students with the skills and knowledge essential for success in the modern world. We strive to create a supportive, team-driven environment where every student has the opportunity to engage in authentic applications of STEAM, developing into innovative, effective collaborators and self-directed learners prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

The PLC and its activities reflect Chester Academy’s commitment to fostering a dynamic and innovative learning environment that promotes hands-on experiences, collaborative problem-solving, and comprehensive STEAM education.

Pilot Program: Integrating Technology and Problem-Based Learning

At Chester Academy, we've launched a pioneering series of pilot projects, each uniquely designed to weave advanced technological skills into the fabric of our curriculum. Spanning grades 6 through 12, these pilots encompass a wide array of disciplines, from culinary arts to digital media, and music to design. Each project, whether it's crafting Halloween-themed cookie cutters using 3D printers or designing personalized pan flutes, aims to transcend conventional learning methods. Students are immersed in an interactive, hands-on learning environment, where they not only engage with cutting-edge technology but also develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These pilots represent a bold step towards integrating creative technology into everyday learning, preparing our students for a future where technological proficiency is paramount.

Pilot 1: Print-a-Treat: 3D Cookie Cutter (Grade 6)

This pilot involved a collaboration between middle and high school students to design and create Halloween-themed cookie cutters using 3D printers. The project integrated technology with culinary arts, engaging students in hands-on learning. They actively participated in the entire process, from design to baking, enhancing their creativity and problem-solving skills. This innovative approach replaced traditional, store-bought cookie cutters and allowed students to explore cross-curricular learning.

Pilot 2: Funko Pop Career Creation (Grade 7)

Students designed personal Funko Pop figures representing their dream careers using MakerBot 3D printers. This project transitioned career exploration from traditional poster presentations to creating tangible 3D models. It provided a multi-sensory experience, deepening students' connection with their future aspirations and enhancing their design and technical skills. The pilot promoted interactive learning and problem-solving, significantly engaging students in a novel way.

Pilot 3: Laser Lines to Phone Designs (Grade 8)

This project focused on designing and creating personal phone holders using laser cutters. Students personalized their designs with engravings and were involved hands-on from drawing to assembly. This pilot shifted from traditional woodworking methods to advanced laser technology, enhancing students' digital literacy and design skills. It offered a modern approach to manufacturing, preparing students for technological advancements.

Pilot 4: Canter Conversation Studio (Grades 6-9)

The project established an official interview and recording studio equipped with green screen and 4K camcorder technology. It shifted from informal interviews in hallways to a professional setting, improving audio and visual quality and providing creative control over the environment. This pilot fostered media production skills, teamwork, and adaptability in technology use, offering a realistic media production experience.

Pilot 5: Melody Makers: 3D Printed Pan Flutes (Grade 7)

Students designed and produced pan flutes, inspired by global designs, using 3D printing technology. This initiative introduced advanced technology into music education, allowing students to compare traditional and modern flute-making techniques. It promoted hands-on experience in both digital and manual creation and encouraged interdisciplinary learning, blending design, music, and technology.

Pilot 6: Anime Avatar Adhesive (Grade 12)

In the Anime Club's "Anime Avatar Adhesive" project, grade 12 students combined digital artistry with modern printing technology. Using Adobe Express and AI camera filters, they designed personalized stickers printed on adhesive vinyl with a Roland VersaStudio BN-20 printer. This project shifted from traditional drawing to digital creation, allowing students to explore a broad range of design possibilities. They produced sets of five stickers each, fostering creativity and skill development in digital design and print production. The project was well-received, with students enjoying the hands-on experience and expressing interest in further exploring digital design applications.

Pilot 7: Abstract Monogram (Grade 9)

The "Abstract Monogram" pilot for grade 9 students in the Creative Arts department involved designing and laser-cutting monograms from their initials. This project integrated digital design tools like Google Slides and RetinaEngrave software with physical artistry using laser cutters. Students worked with various materials like birch plywood, canvas, and paints, transitioning from traditional canvas painting to a more dynamic approach that combined digital and physical mediums. The project enhanced their understanding of modern art techniques and improved their skills in digital design, laser cutting, and artistic composition.

Pilot 8: Drumline T-Shirts (Grade 12)

Grade 12 students in the Drumline program engaged in designing and producing custom T-shirts representing their group identity. They utilized Titan3 Vinyl Cutters and Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl, along with Adobe Express and VinylMaster software, to create unique graphics. This pilot marked a shift from purchasing predesigned shirts to creating personalized designs, enhancing student involvement and pride in their creations. The project developed students' digital design skills and provided practical experience with vinyl cutting and heat transfer applications.

Pilot 9: Design & Dash Dogtags (Grade 12)

In the "Design & Dash Dogtags" pilot, grade 12 students in the Track & Field program designed and created promotional keychains using school and track logos. They employed Bantam desktop milling machines and VinylMaster software for the design, vectorization, milling, and assembly processes. This project allowed students to engage in hands-on design and manufacturing, developing skills in graphic design, vectorization, and practical milling. It also provided a platform for problem-solving and collaborative teamwork, as students overcame various technical challenges to produce custom keychains.

Future Pilots:

An array of upcoming pilot projects promise to further enrich our students' educational experiences. These future endeavors include a diverse range of creative and technological applications across various grades and subjects. Projects like the "Mythological Coin Exchange" in the library and "Biomimicry" in design and drawing classes will utilize laser cutters and 3D printers, respectively. The Multicultural Club will celebrate Arab and Asian Heritage Month with activities involving vinyl cutters, while science classes will experiment with solar ovens. In ecology, students will explore wildlife skulls and artisan syrup bottles using 3D printers and laser cutters. The FACES program will undertake a "Food Truck Challenge," and the social studies department plans to create signage and delve into aerospace evolution. The Book Club will design novel-themed T-shirts, and algebra classes will use large format plotters for "Math Maps." Finally, our athletic department will redesign score tables, demonstrating the versatile application of vinyl cutting across various disciplines.

In conclusion, Chester Academy's comprehensive pilot program represents a significant stride in educational innovation, skillfully integrating advanced technology into various curricula. From creating 3D-printed cookie cutters and Funko Pop figures to designing personalized phone holders and interactive media studios, these pilots embody a fusion of creativity, technical skill, and practical application. Students are not only engaging with technology but also developing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities across diverse subjects. This initiative, transcending traditional teaching methods, exemplifies our commitment to preparing students for the challenges of a technologically evolving future, fostering a learning environment where imagination and innovation thrive.

Bridging Education Through Makerspace Collaborations

Collaboration with the Elementary School

Chester Academy’s makerspace has embarked on a collaborative journey with our elementary school, enhancing geographical education through innovative, tactile learning tools. A notable project involved an independent student using Blender software to sculpt a digital model of New York State's terrain based on accurate elevation data. This 3D model was then brought to life using a CNC router, carefully carving out the design from foam. After meticulous sanding and painting, the model was transformed into a vibrant and tactile map, providing a hands-on tool for elementary students to explore and understand the topography of New York State. This cross-school collaboration not only enriched the geography curriculum but also highlighted the benefits of integrating different educational stages and disciplines.

Expanding Collaboration: T-Shirt Designing

In another venture, high school students are bringing the spirit of the makerspace to the younger generation by collaborating with fifth graders on a T-shirt designing project. Initially, the high schoolers guided the elementary students in designing vinyl cutouts symbolizing the essence of makerspace and STEAM. This year, the project has evolved to invite fifth graders to the high school for a full-day experience, where they will engage in the complete process of T-shirt design and pressing. Under the mentorship of high school students, they will learn and apply various techniques, culminating in the creation of personalized T-shirts that represent the STEAM and makerspace spirit. This initiative aims to build a sense of community across educational levels and ignite a passion for STEAM through creative and interactive projects.

Promoting Makerspace Engagement

In my role at Chester Academy, I have actively promoted the makerspace through a series of targeted initiatives. I guided open house events and tours, including ones for Greenwood Lake middle school students and their families, providing an insightful glimpse into our innovative makerspace. My efforts extended to presentations where I highlighted the importance of makerspace accessibility and demonstrated how computer-aided design, both in 2D and 3D, can be made engaging through gamified lessons and structured templates that encourage experimentation. Additionally, I assisted with a Family Instruction Academy, offering parents hands-on experience in the makerspace, notably in creating their own vinyl-cut door signs. Aligning with our educational goals, I am planning a STEAM Night in conjunction with budget night to showcase the diverse applications of the makerspace by our staff. Furthermore, I facilitated updates to the Board of Education, delivered by our principal, to keep them informed about the achievements and progress students and staff are making in the makerspace.

Comprehensive Digital Handbook

To enhance the understanding and utilization of our makerspace at Chester Academy, I have developed an extensive digital handbook. This resource begins with a welcoming introduction, providing an overview of the makerspace and its myriad possibilities. It details essential safety guidelines, covering general rules, emergency procedures, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements. The handbook thoroughly categorizes and describes each piece of equipment, including individual instructions and specific safety protocols, alongside maintenance procedures. It serves as an educational tool as well, offering an array of learning resources such as sample projects for beginners, ideas for advanced projects, and links to online tutorials and learning modules. The handbook also outlines standard operating procedures for handling materials and tools, clean-up and storage protocols, and a system for reporting any damages or malfunctions. Additional appendices provide a glossary of terms, manufacturer manuals, and necessary waivers or permission forms, making it a comprehensive guide for both students and staff to navigate and excel in the makerspace environment.

Identifying Key Areas for Improvement in Chester Academy's Makerspace

Chester Academy's makerspace, while a hub of innovation and creativity, has identified three critical areas that require enhancement to maximize its potential. Firstly, there's a need for greater subject diversity, particularly in integrating the makerspace with core subjects like English, math, social studies, and science, to offer a more interdisciplinary experience. Secondly, we face a challenge in equity of access; the current scheduling system makes it difficult for teachers to utilize the makerspace during the day due to pre-assigned classes. Lastly, the issue of accessibility arises from the makerspace's design, which is not fully accommodating of average class sizes, typically housing only 11 to 14 students, with the exception of the larger learning stairs area. Addressing these areas will be crucial in enhancing the effectiveness and inclusivity of our makerspace.

Fostering Future-Ready Learners: The Culmination of Chester Academy's Makerspace Journey

In summary, Chester Academy's journey through the Makerspace Pilot Program has been a transformative and enriching venture, marking a new era in educational methodology. We've strategically integrated a wide array of advanced manufacturing technologies into our curriculum, covering a spectrum that includes 3D fabrication, textile and design technologies, cutting and engraving equipment, robotics, electronics, and digital media technologies. This initiative, spearheaded through collaborative efforts with staff and students, has successfully incorporated these technologies into various teaching and learning processes, making Chester Academy a leader in STEAM education.

The formation of the Makerspace Public Learning Committee (PLC), comprising dedicated educators from diverse disciplines, has been a cornerstone in exploring the potential and capabilities of these technologies. Through a series of planned meetings and discussions, the PLC has not only formulated a comprehensive vision and mission for the makerspace but has also laid out a roadmap for future innovations in teaching and learning. Our pilot programs, ranging from 3D printing and laser cutting to digital media creation, have offered students unique, hands-on experiences that go beyond traditional learning methods. These pilots have not only engaged students in the practical application of technology but have also enhanced their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, preparing them for a rapidly evolving technological world.

Our collaboration with the elementary school and the development of initiatives like T-shirt designing projects showcase our commitment to spreading the spirit of STEAM and makerspace across different educational levels. My role in promoting the makerspace through various initiatives, such as open house events, presentations, and family instruction nights, has further strengthened our community's engagement with these innovative learning tools. Additionally, the creation of a comprehensive digital handbook has provided an invaluable resource for both students and staff, ensuring safe and effective use of the makerspace facilities.

However, our journey does not end here. We recognize the need for continuous improvement, particularly in areas such as subject diversity, equity of access, and accommodating larger class sizes. As we move forward, these areas of focus will guide our efforts in enhancing the makerspace's inclusivity and effectiveness. Chester Academy's makerspace journey is a testament to our unwavering commitment to equipping our students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the future, fostering a learning environment where innovation, creativity, and imagination are at the forefront of educational excellence.

Leadership Project: Executive Summary
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