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News from the Foundation

Posted: October 15, 2020

Checking In With Christy Snell of E.G. Ross Elementary School

The APS Education Foundation is highlighting grantees who are thinking outside of the box to reach their students during remote learning.

Christy Snell, the Technology Coordinator at E.G. Ross Elementary School, received the Guhl Literacy Award in 2015, allowing her to build a makerspace and digital learning lab at the school.  The initiative became a best practice not only across the district, but across the state and beyond.  For her success in implementing the grant award and her role in consulting and bringing together educators across the state, the community voted her the winner of the Best In Class award in 2018 to further expand her initiative and to bring learning to life for both students and teachers alike.

Foundation awards fund innovation in education, and innovation is needed now more than ever as educators work to engage their students remotely.  Ms. Snell shares how she has approached the semester still dedicated to providing hands on learning opportunities to her students eager to become innovators themselves, through her Maker Inventor Series.

Ms. Snell writes, “My goal, as I approached this new school year is to engage the students in learning about inventors through maker activities.  Keeping it simple and accessible to all students was how I approached this unique school year.  I encourage the students to reflect on the tools and activities we have done in the past in the makerspace and I have brought the concept of where these inventions are used and found in their own homes.  We do a lot of repurposing of household items and we talk about the inventors of these household items like boxes, bags, paper, etc. as it relates to each new inventor.  Why have I chosen these particular inventors? It is because we use their inventions in our homes daily in some way.    

Our first inventor, Robert Gair, invented cardboard boxes!  What makerspace doesn't use cardboard?  What home doesn't have cardboard made products?  We have become maker scavengers in our own homes!!  We use Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Literacy, Math and Health (STEALTH) related challenges that are focused on specific inventors and their inventions. How we use them in a creative way is the challenge. Repurposing is one of our vocabulary words in every lesson!

As educators, we can engage students during remote learning by meeting each student where they are in the physical sense and use that environment (their home, daycare, etc.) to inspire unique learning experiences that become very individual as we are all in a place that is unique to us and we have experiences to share and relate to what we are learning.  I think making connections to their unique environment allows students to connect to their environment in a new way.  Every day is a new day in the virtual learning environment!

I still see the excitement in the students when we have virtual makerspace lessons.  I am inspired by the creativity that the students have and how excited they are to share their new creations.  They cannot wait to show me what they have done.  I personally feel like the families really support our little makers and put a lot of effort in making sure their children can be creative and the participation of students and families is rewarding.  We are creative, inventive, driven, excited, resilient learners who are ready to make and create in any situation and any environment.  The inspiration to create is anywhere you have support, encouragement, resilience, stuff, and an idea!”