Middle School Technology Program: Makers and More

Adrienne Gifford, Director of our Innovation and Technology Lab, spoke on the curricular changes the school has made in transforming the middle school computer lab into a makerspace. Slides and a video of her presentation are available for your viewing online (you really need to see this). 


A makerspace is a collaborative workshop—students working with technology as well as designing and building projects. Students use all kinds of materials, mixing technology with arts and crafts. We moved to the makerspace concept to emphasize working collaboratively, small group discussion, inquiry, curiosity, and experimentation in which students construct and build their own knowledge. They create by doing, not just by clicking! Students build off the ideas of others and experience being intrinsically motivated to make choices. The main ideas we are focusing on are to take risks, learn from mistakes and failures, and build resilience (“grit” is the trendy word right now). Through this process, students develop the ability to be open‐minded and to collaborate rather than compete with each other.
Open Window is a leader in the area of technology and the makerspace movement. This has happened for many reasons. First and foremost is a talented teacher, who is passionate about her subject and her students. Ms. Gifford is part of a national network of technology leaders and was recognized by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) as one of the nation’s seven Emerging Young Leaders in 2013. Along with colleagues from Evergreen, Overlake, and University Prep., last year she was a recipient of the very first NWAIS Fellowship for Collaborative Innovation. Her team has received $10,000 from NWAIS to develop their expertise on makerspaces and share their findings with other independent schools. Open Window has supported this process as well with professional development funding and summer grants for Ms. Gifford to develop collaborative projects with other Open Window teachers (these are described in the video).  

Ms. Gifford’s seventh grade students won a national app design contest, and Verizon awarded $20,000 to our technology program. This contribution was applied to two new 3D printers with dedicated computers, a soldering station, and a sewing station (to make textiles that can light up and change colors).
Open Window School provides a challenging academic curriculum blended with nurturing support from teachers that prepares students for long-term success.