Grade 6 student Addie, left, works on a soldering project at Maker Experience with Victoria, a UNBC teacher candidate.

Brian Wing from Science World in Vancouver gives some words of wisdom to student, Kaiden, as Kaiden waits for his wind turbine to start spinning.

Science World's Brian Wing directs a fan toward a wind turbine made by student, Gabe.

Lucas shows off his 'Alien Tower' while at Maker Experience.

Kaleiha has some fun with designs at the 3D printer station.

Riley, left, and Logan work on their 3D printer projects.

Kashyana draws a pattern for her robot to follow, with some guidance from Oliva, a UNBC teacher candidate.

Emma, left, and Karis keep watch as their robot follows the path they have made.

MakerLab is on the top floor of Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George.

Maker Experience brings real-world learning to students

Active hands made for busy brains and smiling faces.

Elementary students from School District No. 57 stepped out of their classrooms on Tuesday to participate in Maker Experience at Prince George’s Two Rivers Gallery. The students – more than 80 in total – engaged in several different hands-on activities. Stations set up on the gallery’s top floor allowed them to try things like 3D printing, soldering, laser cutting, coding and robotics.

One station, manned by Brian Wing from Vancouver’s Science World, gave students the opportunity to build wind turbines out of sticks and paper. When their turbines were ready for trial, students held them in front of a fan and got a power reading from Wing. With suggestions from Wing, students then refined their designs in hopes of generating as much power as possible.

Lise Hyam, a support teacher at Blackburn Elementary, was pleased to see the engagement level of the students.

“This provides a lot of hands-on experiences to explore some Maker and creative activities that we don’t have the means to provide at school,” Hyam said. “Expanding their minds, exploring new things – it’s very cool. There were a lot of happy kids today, which was nice.”

Students ranged from Grade 4 to Grade 7 (most were in Grade 6) and came from Blackburn, Giscome, Buckhorn and Hixon, which are some of the more rural schools in the district. Maker Experience and its STEAM mandate (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) aligned with the Applied Design, Skills and Technology unit of the provincial curriculum.

The day was also a chance for 30 teacher candidates from the University of Northern British Columbia to mingle with students and work with them as they moved from station to station.

“It’s so cool to interact with the kids,” said Cedar Sherman, who is working toward becoming a secondary school teacher. “I think it gives us an opportunity to see what we will be able to do when we’re teachers and that the Prince George community has options like this for the kids to come and see. It’s been awesome to see how much fun the kids are having. They love it.

“They’re getting involved in real-world applications and using problem-solving skills that they learn in the classroom – so like their math and spatial awareness and stuff like that. They can see that, ‘Oh yes, that actually does apply to what I’m going to be doing out of the classroom.’”

School District No. 57 and Two Rivers Gallery have a long partnership but this is the second year for this particular program, which is supported by a youth discovery grant from Industry Training Authority.

Briana Sadler, MakerLab coordinator at Two Rivers Gallery, sees Maker Experience as a perfect cooperative project for the district and the gallery.

“SD 57 and Two Rivers Gallery, we do a lot of the same things and we reach a lot of the same target goals,” Sadler said. “So for us to have that partnership – to get teachers here to the gallery, to get students here to the gallery – they get to learn and be passionate about what we’re passionate about. I think there are a lot of key points that come in for both partners.”

Sadler says the hands-on aspect of Maker Experience is valuable for students.

“They can recognize that there are people, professionals in the world using these tools,” she said. “It helps the kids understand ways that they can go ahead and use these tools in their careers. I know they’re quite young still but it’s early exposure to the possibilities.”

Other key contributors to Maker Experience included The Exploration Place, College of New Caledonia and Emily Carr University Living Labs.