All that was asked of the students was to make something related to their interests and chosen field of study after high school, and to finish it by a certain deadline. The students had to do all the rest on their own - figure out how the equipment worked, what they would do with it, how they would do it, etc.
“I just told them that we were going to work on developing a skill. They got to pick their skill and they got to choose how they were going to show it,” Vaught said. “We told them here are the tools we have. How are we going to take a life skill that you think you’re going to need and how can we develop it. What can you make to further that skill?”
Students utilized the resources available in the library’s Makerspace toolkits. Students interested in media used the library’s greenscreen, ipads, and claymation supplies for video-making. Those who plan to one day have a business created logos for t-shirts and stickers using the library Cricut machine. Writers used the binding machine and submitted stories to the HydraPublications story contest. Students interested in the trades used woodburning and soldering tools to create various products, and those creative in arts and sewing created unique craft projects using the library’s sewing machine and art supplies. The project pushed the students a little bit out of their comfort zones by asking them to try something they hadn’t done before.
“After graduation they are going to constantly face tasks that they have never before had to deal with, and we are attempting to build confidence in them by making them realize that any task can be accomplished if it can be broken down,” Burgin said “Despite their initial nervousness, students learned that it’s okay to fail and how to learn from their mistakes. They are now on to another project and we have students going into coding, programming, and taking on whole new sets of skills because they realize now that anything is possible and want to learn more.”
Abby Russell would like to pursue a career in dentistry. Her chosen task was to sew a pair of scrubs that she could actually wear to work.
“I’ve sewn a little bit before, but I’ve never actually made something somebody can wear,” Russell said. “It was a challenge for me, especially with certain elements of the pants and the shirt.”
When Russell got stuck or frustrated, she had to remind herself to be patient, follow the instructions and to look for resources when she needed assistance.
“I definitely used by computer to research certain aspects of the construction,” Russell said. “And I called my grandmother, who is a seamstress, and she helped me quite a bit and I was able to teach her a few things, too.”
Vaught said that helping students realize they have resources and how to access those resources was a primary objective of the project.
“They used YouTube a lot to learn how to move their projects further, and some turned to family members, which was really a neat connection for them to make,” Vaught said. “We provided the structure of the assignment and ongoing assistance, and helped them think through how to overcome obstacles when they hit walls, and acted as a sounding board when they had concerns. For some, it was just an opportunity to branch into something they’ve never done before. And they had to move past the fear of failure. The projects help reinforce that it’s always about growth and development. It’s not failure, it’s learning.”
Both Burgin and Vaught were impressed by the amount of time, energy and pride the students devoted to their projects.
“I was really impressed by how much they cared about what they were doing. They made it their own. It wasn’t just for school. It was for them personally. They wanted to demonstrate what they could do, so it meant a lot to them,” Burgin said. “And to know it related to something they want to do in life made it a really powerful learning activity.”
Miguel Jimenez chose to create a metal puzzle cube with the help of his brother, who is a tool and die machinist. He spent some nights and Saturday’s at his brother’s workplace completing his project.
“When I job shadowed him, I was just really fascinated by how the die machines work,” Jimenez said. “I definitely learned more about this career field that I want to go into.”
Jimenez said he discovered how precise you have to be in your measurements in order to program the correct data into the computer. He also dealt with the pressure of meeting a deadline.
“It was challenging, but I like this kind of assignment. I really enjoyed it because it’s more hands-on,” Jimenez said.
Vaught said the final aspect of the unit was reflection.
“What have you learned, and where would you like to go from here? It’s not just about what you made. It was the process, what you learned and where you’re going to go, and always moving forward,” Vaught said. “They have to learn the essential skill of perseverance. Keep moving forward in life.”