Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center builds two new makerspaces

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PESHTIGO, Wis. (WBAY) -- As elementary-aged students at times surpass their teacher's knowledge of technology, on Wednesday, Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center rolled out a new way to use those skills right in front of the Action 2 News cameras.

The maker movement is heating up across the country and now, and two new makerspace classrooms give students at PELC a place to build and innovate—even if the teachers themselves don't understand the methodology.

It was the first time these kindergartners have used a makerspace classroom full of challenges written out on cards little cards.

One of them was, “act out a story book.” Several children worked the dialogue as the teacher read aloud Little Red Riding Hood.

Sometimes the students collaborate—working with Legos, finding parts, talking out solutions when they got stuck. Other times it's a solo challenge with whatever they can find. A girl named Ava showed us how she took on her challenge to “build a bridge longer than your arm.”

The walls are covered; one wall is a full-blown Lego wall made of Lego base plates. Another wall is a stage with a whiteboard to draw out solutions. The biggest wall is full of containers full of soon-to-be project materials.

“We're always looking for people to donate recycled tools,” said Principal Kelly Collins. “Nuts and bolts and hinges and levers and pulleys and string and little small machines that they can disassemble and put back together.”

These classrooms are funded mainly through grants and donations. Green Bay Public Schools and the De Pere districts are also using makerspaces.

Action 2 News got to tour the high-tech makerspace that will be used by older elementary school students sometime this semester—and fifth graders we spoke to said they are especially excited to use the green screen, which is decked out with real studio lights, an iPad holder for simulcasts. The students plan to make newscasts, interactive book reports, weathercasts and sportscasts.

The second makerspace is not quite finished being set up and on Friday, teachers will use an in-service day to open boxes and play with the new technology. Lego plays a big role in this classroom: there are kits to build robots, renewable energy sources and learn to code. Lego has a program that will sync the student’s creations with the Lego Education app, which can bring some of the projects to life.

"We're trying to improve computer coding, robotics, some of the more engineering-based, project-based learning—learning that we can't necessarily meet the need for in our general science curriculum,” said Principal Collins.

Crafts, tools and donations can be taken to Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center.