Coding was the lesson inside the Makerspace at Raymond F. Brandes School 65 on a recent Monday morning. But the fourth-grade students in Stephanie Basile’s class weren’t using computers to build their designs.

 

Students served as programmers and robots during this STEM lesson.

 

As the class talked through the project before breaking into smaller groups, Basile — who teaches math and science at the IPS elementary school on the city’s Southside — explained that instead of coding singular directions, this time they would work on programming multistep directives for their robots using a coding tool known as a loop.

 

While the process was sinking in with students, nine-year-old Camren G. wanted to make sure he had a clear grasp of the assignment.

 

“Could you tell the robot to turn 90 degrees times two?” Camren asked about the new multistep process they were using.

 

Basile’s answer? A resounding, “Yes!”

 

That’s the kind of quick thinking and creativity that’s been happening inside the school’s Makerspace since it opened to students in August.

 

“They amaze me with what they come up with in their problem-solving,” said Basile.

 

When the idea of a Makerspace was presented to Principal Lauren Johnson, she considered it a natural next step for the school that started out with a focus on literacy technology and career development.

 

“When we saw the opportunity to add the STEM programming, we thought, ‘Well, we’re already doing the technology pretty heavy. We already have Mrs. Basile, who wanted to run with the science,’” said Johnson. “And then we had also done some things with the University of Indianapolis with afterschool science clubs.”

 

While the Makerspace still allows students to explore science, technology, engineering and math, it’s done so in a different, more hands-on way.

 

“It’s more hands-on exploration and that’s one of the things that we had to train teachers on, just being able to let go a little bit and realize that part of the journey of education is the creativity from the students,” said Johnson. “So, we did have initial training on a curriculum called Rozzy, which gives teachers a place to go for weekly activities. Now they can choose to do other things and some of the teachers have, but at least they have a curriculum they can go to for ideas and it involves architecture, or making habitats for animals, but a lot of teachers have branched out on their own.”

 

The space was created in June but opened to students at the beginning of this school year in August. Students love the room, with its colorful décor and unique classroom materials.

 

“I like most that it’s different from learning,” said Camren G. “It’s like science mixed with having fun.”

 

“I like that we can have fun and do different things,” said Emily D. 10. “I really like coding with the red cups.”

 

Even parents are excited about the new space.

 

“A lot of the parents, when they came to the space say, ‘This is all they (their students) talk about when they come home, and they wanted us to come and see it,” said Angela Knight, parent involvement educator at Raymond F. Brandes. “The kids were really excited to show it off to their parents – to say, “This is what we’re doing at school. And it really helped bring parents to Family Night.”

 

The Makerspace at Raymond F. Brandes is a gift from the Abbvie Foundation and Heart of America.