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The Canadian Education Association (CEA) has recognized École Victoria-Albert School's Makerspace program with a Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.
The prestigious award, which was announced on April 5, cited the school for "exemplifying the joy of student design, creation and learning."
The school has transformed its library into a Learning Commons Makerspace, which has provided meaningful hands-on learning opportunities for the majority of its students, including a significant English-as-an additional-language student population.
"This is an excellent Makerspace example that's ahead of the curve in the way it provides newcomer students with engaging personalized learning and integrates their families into this process," said Ron Canuel, CEA President and CEO.
Students work independently and plan their own learning using a variety of Maker materials, from cardboard to Lego robotics for engaging opportunities to think critically and creatively about their given challenge. Teacher debriefings after every Makerspace activity represent a crucial component for their own continuous learning and improvement.
The concept is based on the work of educator and mathematician Seymour Papert and in particular the concept of constructionist learning, which advocates student-centered, discovery-based education. Students participate in project-based learning that leans heavily on the
use manipulative materials and the experience of creation to develop
"Through the Makerspace, we do a lot of teaching around collaboration," said Renee Sanguin, Inquiry Support teacher Victoria-Albert. "Children are learning to talk about their experiences through teamwork, collaboration and communication. They're sharing ideas and applying critical thinking and creativity."
The wealth of resources can be used for crafting or for fulfilling instant challenges to construct different designs under time constraints.
"I work with the classroom teachers to plan and be very intentional about the kind of learning that's happening here, to make it meaningful for each classroom." Ms. Sanguin said. "This is just one part of that whole concept of inquiry and innovation we're trying to develop."
By listening to and learning from their students, teachers are providing relevant opportunities for problem solving and deep learning, which is equitable and empowering for all. For the school's many English-as-an-additional language students, the act of creating and manipulating materials provides another language for learning to take place.
"It's a place where we get to make new stuff and figure out how things work," said one student. "And we get to play with toys too."
The Makerspace has revitalized the school's library.
"We're trying to shift from the idea of the traditional library to that of being a learning commons where you create knowledge and understanding and learn together," Ms. Sanguin said.
A Ken Spencer Award recognition ceremony will take place at Victoria-Albert on June 7.
For a booklet showcasing the work of all seven Ken Spencer Award winners, visit http://www.cea-ace.ca/2017KSAwardWinners .