ErkenBrack seeks materials for Maker movement

OSKALOOSA — A movement is coming to the high school and middle school, one promoting creativity, innovation and problem-solving.

The Maker Movement is not a new idea but is becoming more and more popular. “It’s been around for quite a while, and it’s finding its way into libraries,” said Patricia ErkenBrack, librarian at the middle and high schools. “I think it’s really almost impossible to describe a Maker Space, because it’s as individual as the people that make it up.

“So far, we haven’t gotten a lot of activity, so Mrs. Anderson and I have decided that maybe we should approach it from an ‘if you build it, they will come’ kind of an idea.” With some reconfiguring of the library, a Maker Space has been designated at the front of the room, near the entrance.

To protect the library furniture, students might make a protective surface for the tables and figure out what to use and how to make it themselves. Makers would have access to materials, a space to work and “just a free breathing area and a place for people to tinker” not only with hands-on materials but digital projects as well, such as coding programs. All aspects of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as well as the arts have a place in the Makers Movement.

“I don’t really want it to be a craft space, but if we just start there and see if it gathers any steam. Hopefully by word of mouth, we can get things going,” said ErkenBrack. “I really think it serves a very important educational need, because kids do need to nurture that innovative, creative part of their mind that I think we all can tap into. The more you tap into it, the better you get at it, just like anything else. So we’re providing those opportunities and the space.”

ErkenBrack, who teaches a last period class to sixth-graders, began a rotation with a big piece of paper on the wall called “the wonder wall”. She gave the class some sticky notes and told the class to just paste up there what they wonder about. “They were flabbergasted,” said ErkenBrack. “I was thinking, ‘Sixth-graders don’t wonder about anything?’ Society has changed so much and we are so focused on the digital world. Kids know how to click a hyperlink, they know how to play a game, and there’s value in that as well, but when that’s the only thing kids do for their entertainment or free time, I think that’s a problem.”

Employers are looking more and more for problem solvers, and the Makers Movement encourages problem solving. ErkenBrack attended a workshop at the Science Center of Iowa, where a project was set forth to make a journal from scratch. “I was really intimidated by this, but I could see my thought processes along the way, and I could see that I did problem solving, so it’s a different way of learning. And you learn things as a byproduct of the activity that you’re engaged in.

“One of the [goals] of the Maker Space is to teach people not to be just consumers but also creators. And to make things that are of value to them in some way.”

If you have materials of any sort, tools, storage bins, ideas or suggestions, contact ErkenBrack at Oskaloosa High School.

— Herald staff writer Angie Holland can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Osky Angie.

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