AWARD YEAR: 2017
Newton-Conover Middle School
Director: Jessica Schouweiler
Assistant Principal and STEM Coordinator
Project: Makerspace Challenges
Newton-Conover Middle School (NCMS), in partnership with the local community college, two universities, city manager, and chamber of commerce, seeks to find a solution to address our community's needs. This solution involves a series of makerspace challenges. A makerspace challenge is an inquiry-based problem where students work collaboratively to find innovative solutions to real-world problems, issues, or questions. The vision behind makerspace challenges is to prepare students for a future where, "the jobs of today won't exist tomorrow and where many of the jobs of tomorrow do not exist today(1)." Since technology plays a large role in shaping the future, educators must be cognizant about how they are preparing their students to be future-ready. The makerspace challenges are rooted in developing good thinkers who can solve problems they may encounter in local STEM careers. Overall, the makerspace challenges seek to meet the following three goals: preparing students to be future-ready, providing opportunities for disadvantaged groups of students, developing STEM skills directly related to STEM careers.
Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC), the local community college, is recommending local STEM industries in high-demand for skilled workers as well as the skills that are required, but largely lacking, for entering employees. The Science House, an extension of NC State University, and Lenoir Rhyne University are collaborating with NCMS to develop a makerspace challenge. The challenge implements the design thinking process, use of diverse technology tools, skills directly related to STEM careers, North Carolina content for STEM areas, and skills transferable to any future career. Participating teachers are trained to use the most appropriate technology for each challenge. After a vetting and revision process, the challenges are outlined on Canvas, our learning management system, and disseminated through North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), the National Science Teacher Association, the NC Science Teachers Association, and The Science House's website for ease of replication. The challenges provide the possibility for all NCMS core content teachers and students to experience at least one of the four challenges offered yearly.