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Makerspace Magic

I​magination without limits. 

That's the magic infusing Makerspaces in JUSD classrooms, libraries and innovation centers.  Jurupa Unified has integrated Makerspaces – collaborative work areas where students build, learn, explore, make, share and experiment, often using technology – into schools district-wide. 

Teachers say Makerspaces help students grow, innovate, and learn resilience, resolve and determination.  The spaces support all subjects, challenge young minds, and engage all students, almost without exception, educators said.​

“Students are so motivated within to create something that they are focused and active," said Julia Quinto, an instructor at Rustic Lane Elementary.  “Even the kids who I didn't think would be excited about making were so enveloped in a project."


Tonya Coats, a Rustic Lane teacher who has used Makerspaces for four years in subjects ranging from art to robotics to coding, said the spaces give students autonomy, the freedom to discover, and a judgment-free place to experiment. 

Mission Middle School teacher Laurie Ludwig agreed: “Having this space available has been invaluable.  It gives students hands-on opportunities to try, stumble, get up, and soar!" she said, emphasizing the value of technology in high school, college, trade school and careers.

 Veronica Gonzalez, Coordinator of Information Technology for JUSD, added that Makerspaces strengthen students' resilience and technology skills, teaching them to persevere and learn without limits for a lifetime: “As students are building projects and testing them, they are learning how to troubleshoot by analyzing the areas that need re-engineering," she said.

Ms. Coats elaborated: “Having access to Makerspaces has changed the way I teach because I have learned that it's OK to let students struggle with concepts sometimes.  This helps students keep going even when it's hard.  By doing this, students learn patience, creativity, innovation, and a strong growth mind-set, and their frustrations quickly turn into a deeper ​retention of information."

Asked for examples of Makerspace learning in action, the teachers shared a couple of stories:

  • “In first grade, number sense is extremely important," Ms. Coats said.  “So at the beginning of the year I gave students LEGOs and a pattern of Martin Luther King Jr. to build.  I hoped they would have it completed by his birthday in January.  It was a struggle: They miscounted, ran out of pieces, and had to restart multiple times.  It sat on our Makerspace table for weeks because frustration was growing.  Then one day, students realized they weren't efficiently using the pieces and they needed to start regrouping colors to make it work.  That was the moment the project turned around and the class was motivated to work together to finish the mural.  When they finally completed it, the satisfaction of completing the mural was so much greater than it would have been had I intervened.  After this project, our classroom motto became, 'A little struggle helps you learn!'"
  • I work with the Rustic Lane GATE and Merit group called the RoboCubs," said Ms. Quinto, “and we have been working on drawing with technology.  One project involved building LEGOs and using motors to make them draw.  Students were having a difficult time creating linkages that would be stable enough and fluid enough to control the pen to draw.  But they were able to research using their Chromebooks, look around the room for ideas, and collaborate with each other to make it work!  It was exciting to watch them struggle through their problems, work together, consult each other, persevere, and see it through." 

​Kristi Batchelder, principal of Rustic Lane Elementary, praised instructors campus-wide for their creative use of Makerspaces.  “Teachers have become innovators themselves, designing enriching, hands-on opportunities for their students," Ms. Batchelder said.  “Many teachers have even created small Makerspaces within their classrooms by simply repurposing a back table or corner of the room."  She added, “Watching students interact with the Rustic Lane Innovation Center is a joy to behold.  You can feel the buzz of their energy because they are excited for the learning opportunities they are about to experience."

Over the past few years, the magic of Makerspaces has been introduced at all Jurupa Unified elementary and middle schools.  Said Ms. Gonzalez: “Students are so invested in Makerspaces that our libraries keep asking me for more resources.”​​