The first Mobilemaker:ED cart has been rolled out to a very special school in St. Louis. The school welcomed the ability to bring Maker Learning to their students in a small footprint, and the mobility of the cart is ideal for their situation, as the school is actually two schools in one building. The administrators and teachers at Jennings Junior High Career Academy and College Prep were very enthusiastic about the possibilities this mobile lab brings to all their students who can equally share this great resource by transporting it easily to different parts of the school building.
During the 3-Day professional development session given by the non-profit organization Alliance for Digital Fabrication Education, the educators talked about the school’s national attention over the successful turnaround in the 3 years since they were on the brink of losing state accreditation. This dire situation was solved by focusing on poverty above all else, and using the tools of the school district to alleviate the barriers to learning that poverty creates. With a strong emphasis on keeping students in a healthy capacity to learn, school superintendent Tiffany Anderson looked for innovative solutions, such as a school district run foster home, a school food pantry, laundry machines, an on campus medical clinic. Much of the same racial tensions and poverty problems that its direct neighbor Ferguson Missouri has faced since Michael Browns death, have circulated in the surrounding neighborhoods of Jennings. To challenge these issues head on, one of the first trainings for teachers Ms. Anderson worked on is dissimilating racism. Also important is equity training, here she placed many teachers in poverty for a week in a simulation environment, and all staff in the school district were provided training to deal with trauma and how to defuse tense situations. Current Superintendent Art McCoy, who was formerly with the Ferguson School district, continues the path of Ms. Anderson and says the goal of educational innovation like the the Mobilemaker:ED Cart is to directly connect with the students on problem solving in the word around them. Some of this might take the form of product development and entrepreneurship, or a unit in teaching empathy and compassion, where students solve problems for people in their community, by examining the life of elderly and disabled people.
Much of this digital fabrication specific curriculum development will take place over the next year, and the educators will work with adfab:ED via weekly skype video chats. This is an ongoing effort of the organization, to create equity in education and it is important work because there are so many beautiful minds out there who need an opportunity to grow and learn in ways that do not come from books. Over the next year, adfab:ED will continue to produce and sponsor the Mobilemaker:ED education program with a goal of 6 carts to be distributed by the end of 2017.