Leading the Way in Maker Education
For the past 4 years after the school year has ended, Sara Reinthaler, who runs our Enrichment program and founded and runs the school Makerspace, has attended a week-long professional development training program geared specifically towards those on the front lines of the maker movement in education.
The Pittsburgh Fab Institute, sponsored by The Grable Foundation, provides 12 different workshops focused on digital fabrication with tools like 3D printers, vinyl cutters, laser cutters, and CNC machines as well as software for coding, robotics and electronics. Days begin with a keynote speaker and then each participant attends two workshops a day which are taught in 3 hour increments. These long sessions allow attendees to really be able to delve deep and get some hands on experience with topics and projects while also asking questions of experts and networking with other maker-educators. Teachers from K-12 as well as administrators and librarians who currently have or are looking to start makerspaces are welcome to attend this FREE event each year.
This year, Sara Reinthaler has been invited to teach a workshop on 3D printing at the Pittsburgh Fab Institute. She is very excited to bring her love of making and share ways to use digital fabrication in order to teach kids new skills to other professional educators. She will be using the free web based software Tinkercad as she believes that all schools should be able to offer their students access to tools for hands on exploration and problem solving despite their financial situations.
The Village School was one of the first elementary schools in the area to start a makerspace and with Sara’s leadership, the program has continued to thrive and grow over the past 5 years. We are happy Sara will be helping other schools start or build their makerspace programs as well.
Good Luck Sara!
By: Naomi Pestana
Three of our Village School students, 7th grader Gigi Ochs and Middle School students Mackenzie Morante and Matthew Song, have been selected by the MediaWise team to be a part of The Poynter Institute’s MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network (TFCN). The selected students will join approximately 20 other teens from around the country this summer working to fight misinformation and disinformation online. This opportunity follows an April visit from the MediaWise program who came to our school to teach our Village School 6th, 7th, and 8th graders how to identify misinformation and fake news online and on social media. Founded in 1975, The Poynter Institute is considered to be one of the world’s leading schools for journalism training and education.
Many congrats to Gigi, Mackenzie, and Matthew!
I had the pleasure of speaking with Naomi Pestana about what Journalism means to her and how her experience has led her to develop the New Broadcast class at The Village School. Throughout our interview Naomi shared her experience working with the 7th and 8th years. She described how she tailors her lessons to help the students develop the skills needed for the news-gathering process. During this process, the students are taught how to gather, create, identify their audience, and focus their stories on events happening in school. She also discussed how she has students typing the process of tying the topics to a bigger issue; and how that issue affects students on different program levels. Naomi said it has been rewarding being able to use her years of journalism experience to provide her students with the resources they need to uncover the stories.
The students are first expected to understand the basics of journalism such as how to mount a camera on a tripod, turning it on, and wait for the proper moment to get the correct footage. It can take up to months to make a single newscast. Students are assigned to different roles which require specific tasks: anchor, producer, photographer, reporter, or editor. Teams must work together as all tasks are essential to making their final production. At the beginning of the year, students had a story scavenger hunt around the school. Students listened to discussions and talked about them in relation to a newscast. They became aware of the importance of getting to the scene, gathering information, and returning to the newsroom to make the proper edits for the broadcast. Throughout the year they learned how to identify a good story based on its potential news elements. They also attend classes on news literacy and assess how to documentation according to news values, ethics, and judgements.
The Broadcast Journalism Program has provided a broad spectrum of opportunities for the students that go beyond the school newsroom. For instance, last year one student, Abby Cavlov was given the opportunity to be an Intern for the day at NJTV. Naomi’s relationships in the news world have brought valuable experiences to the Village School students including ABC7 Eyewitness News and Kane in Your Corner. Some students from the Village School were able to go and tour the ABC7 Eyewitness News broadcasting site last year. Other opportunities involved having guest speakers come and speak to the children about what it is like being a reporter on a daily basis. This year Walt Kane from Kane in Your Corner from News 12 came and spoke to the students about investigative journalism and why it is so important and how it can make a difference from uncovering fraud and corruption to fixing problems for people when they otherwise have no hope.
I was able to speak with a few students to understand their thoughts on the Journalism class. One student, Claire Reinthaler said, “From a Montessori approach, this class provides a hands-on visual learning appeal. It is creating something visual and educational while including the community around us.” Another student Chloe Tsarnas said that she was, “Really glad we got this opportunity. Don’t judge it until you try it. “Through the news gathering process, students realize the importance of dedication and commitment to a project that is going to be shared with the community. When you review a Village School newscast, it is clear these students value their work. Click on any episode below to view a student newscast from this school year 2018-2019! Happy Listening!
When I asked Naomi what advice she would give to her students, Naomi stated she would like her class to think about and look at information critically. She hopes they see the multi-level process of putting on news broadcast before it is aired. Naomi would like to her students to grasp the skills to look at things critically and TO HAVE FUN going through the process as they learn it.
The Beauty of the Process
In the eyes of any Montessorian, there is a firm believe in the process of every work cycle. Each material provides a baseline for developing stronger cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills. In the Montessori environment, there are different areas of focus: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, Geography, Science, Art, and Library. All areas compliment each other and the lessons relate to each other inside the classroom. The children learn to understand and value the process of the work cycle and see the benefit in taking out a work, bringing it to their table, completing their work, and bringing it back to the home spot. The lessons tend to be arranged according to the complexity of each work- concrete to abstract, few to many, dry to wet, no tool to tool and so on. The children know that before engaging in a work, they must first have a lesson. Once they have been given a lesson, the children are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to work with and carry out the process of doing that work and possibly even do the extension lessons related to the work. Once the students have an idea and understanding of the materials on the shelves and have mastered them, they can either choose to repeat work or strive for more challenging work. As teachers, we focus on the child’s ability to have and strengthen the following skills: Independence, Coordination, Concentration and Order. The “product” then becomes the capabilities that students show outside of school. All Montessori works are designed to advance a child’s cognitive, academic, social, physical development.
Bubble Making work may appear to be simple, but did you know that it actually involves over 30 steps; all of which follow Montessori’s sense of Normalization. From setting up the workspace (sense of order) to working left to right (pre reading) to grasping and squeezing (gross and fine motor skills), each work provides a control of error as well as various levels of concentration. From the beginning of the work to the completion of the work cycle, there are different characteristics that play major parts for the child and their understanding of the material. Works are designed to emphasize care of the environment, hand strength, and finally respect for themselves and their work, while using the material in the designed way, the child develops an understanding of their concepts.
All materials are child sized to promote independence and confidence. Each step holds value according to the Montessori philosophy and utilizes multiple tools to promote normalization in the classroom.