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School ready to get creative

A corner in the new MakerSpace room at the Fairmont High School is seen. This corner is dedicated in memory of Tyler Kotewa, a 2009 graduate. Music production equipment was purchased with funds in his memory.

As the new school year is about to begin, administrators at Fairmont High School are excited for students to utilize a new “MakerSpace” area that will allow them to explore STEAM concepts.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.

Principal Kim Niss read the description of the room, as defined for students: A “workshop” area that allows learners to design, create and build structures or projects using materials such as art supplies, paper, wood, glue, tools, computer design, coding, etc.

The MakerSpace area is in a room off the media center. It was previously used for staff development, but administrators began working toward making it a MakerSpace area last school year.

“What really changed to make it come into the light was generous donation from the family, friends and the classmates of Tyler Kotewa in memory, and a grant from 3M,” Niss said.

Kotewa, a 2009 graduate, lost his battle with cancer in December 2016. He had a love of music and was in a band, Evasive Maneuver. He also loved math and had just obtained his master’s degree in education and was working toward becoming a math teacher.

One of Kotewa’s former classmates, Shanna Roloff, helped organize the funds.

“We had a class of 2009 Facebook group and everyone was commenting on there with ideas and we wanted to do something more than just give flowers,” she said. “At first we were thinking of doing a scholarship, but I was doing an internship at the high school at the time and talked to Kim about wanting to do something and she told me about the MakerSpace area.”

Roloff said the class of 2009 gave about $1,000 toward the project and Kotewa’s parents and friends also gave.

With the donation, high-quality digital music production equipment was purchased and set up in the MakerSpace room. Vocational Principal Andy Traetow said they worked with someone in the music production industry to get recommendations for equipment.

“Tyler loved music and his plan was to be a math teacher,” Roloff said. “This space sounds like the way he would have learned and thrived in.”

Niss said there are plans to put a plaque with more information about Kotewa on the wall.

The MakerSpace area will allow students to explore many different STEAM areas.

“They can create music; they can create LEGO architecture; they can build and be creative,” Traetow explained.

“Some of the core elements in education right now that are really becoming more pervasive is the idea of the four C’s so that students have critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication,” said Traetow, explaining that the MakerSpace area allows students to use all of four C’s.

In addition to the music production station, other stations in the room include a coding and computer application station; LEGO architecture studio kits; LEGO EV3 mindstorm sets, which allow students to build robots; Makey Makey stem packs; and littleBits circuitry equipment, which deals with the science of circuitry.

Students will utilize the space during independent learning times. Traetow added that if teachers have a way to incorporate the space into their curriculums, they can work with the media center specialists and reserve the room to bring in a class.

“When you talk about creation of literature and putting thoughts and writing into action, the possibility of students being able to create a soundtrack for their piece of writing in order to really bring it to life is one way a class could take advantage of some of the assets we have in here,” Traetow said.

The music production area is set up and ready to go while the other stations will quickly follow.

Two of Fairmont’s recently graduated art students painted the mural on the wall in memory of Kotewa. Down the line, administrators would like to have other murals done that highlight math, sciences and the arts.

“It also allows us to showcase the talents of our kids who don’t always get exposure,” Traetow said.

Niss said they will continue to add additional items to the room with leftover money from a 3M grant.

“If any community members are interested in donating or even volunteering in the room during the day, that would be welcomed,” Niss said. “We can definitely continue to grow this area.”

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