Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Maplewood Middle School Debuts New Makers Space — Thanks to Achieve & HSA

Evyn Diegnan displays a 3D model of a molecules printed out by an MMS student. March 5, 2019.

Learning just got a lot more dynamic and hands-on at Maplewood Middle School: On March 5, MMS celebrated its new Makers Space with a grand opening.

A side room of the library media center — formerly filled with stored equipment and briefly used to house Guidance — is now a fully loaded Makers Space, complete with 3D printers, iMacs (installed with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software), a large-scale printer, new furniture, a new large TV, new video cameras, virtual reality goggles and more. In a nearby former closet space, a recording studio is in full effect.

All of it radiates from the newly spruced-up library space and the energy brought by full-time MMS Media Library Specialist (aka librarian) Evyn Diegnan.

Diegnan is quick to cite the support of the Achieve Foundation, the MMS Home & School Association, Principal Dara Gronau and Junior Spencer, the IT specialist for MMS. Parent Richard Marks has been a major factor, working with Diegnan to create a vision and realize it after he started volunteering in the library in Fall 2017.

Although the grand opening took place in March, students and teachers began using the Makers Space in February. On the morning of March 5, a 6th grade history class was making use of the virtual reality goggles to get a 3D experience of walking through a World War I trench. Afterward, Diegnan discussed with the students what they saw and how they as soldiers would function in the trenches. Diegnan explained to Village Green that the technology provided by the Makers Space is a way to bring subject matter alive for students. He showed examples of students using the 3D printers to create models of molecules and related stories of students producing podcasts in the recording studio and using a green screen for weather reports.

Through the use of the Makers Space, teachers had already been able to expand learning opportunities for students around Black History Month and had shown the ability to use the space for every subject from science to English language arts. Besides expanding curriculum and classroom projects, MMS will utilize the space to allow students to individually pursue their interests, and the space can be used by faculty and staff for collaboration and professional development.

How has it all been funded? Mary Ellen Dawkins, who volunteers as treasurer for both Achieve and the MMS HSA, reported that Achieve awarded MMS Principal Dara Gronau a $4,500 Administrator Grant in May 2017 when the project was referred to as “Middle School Genius Bar at the MMS Media Center.” In June 2018, the MMS HSA gifted $8,137 for Maker Space purchases. Achieve awarded Diegnan another grant of $405 in December 2018 for supplies.

Marks reported that the HSA is working to raise an additional $5,000 to support, among other projects, Adobe Creative Suite training for Diegnan and MMS faculty, as well as additional equipment, software and electrical upgrades.

The energy in the space and the library was palpable on March 5.

“We’re very excited about the Makers Space,” said HSA C0-President Sara Knutsen, “This is the future of our district.”

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