MakerMinded enriches classrooms without burdening teachers

MakerMinded competition sounds enticing: Have students participate in STEM- and manufacturing-related activities, programs and experiences listed on the MakerMinded web site; document and showcase the participation on social media; earn and track points received for participation; win prizes based on points earned at the end of the school year. But how does a teacher fit all this into a crowded curriculum? Two Ohio educators have found a way to incorporate MakerMinded participation into their regular classes and school club activities. And, as a result, both find their schools near the top of the points leader board among schools in the Buckeye State. Russell Nelson, sixth-grade science and sustainability teacher at Dayton Regional STEM School (DRSS) in Kettering in southwestern Ohio, and Juliann Trevorrow, Project Lead the Way teacher in Alliance City Schools in northeastern Ohio, offered tips on how the MakerMinded competition can become part of a school’s regular curriculum and club agenda:

Q: Tell us about your school’s participation in MakerMinded activities — what prompted it, who participates and how does it work into your curriculum?

Russell NelsonRussell Nelson: As we discussed this competition, and I searched its list of more than 100 activities, I realized that my school would not need to implement more projects or clubs but simply help our students sign up and share what they are already involved in.

At DRSS, we are a certified STEM school in the state of Ohio, so we teach curriculum in most subject areas that is already STEM focused. Along with being a STEM school, we also use project-based learning to approach real-world problems, integrating multiple content areas into each project.

Within many of our projects, students are introduced to many of the activities in this competition. For our school size, we do not have organized sports but do offer after-school clubs and competitive academic teams. Through these clubs and teams, we should earn the most MakerMinded points looking over the list of STEM- and manufacturing-related activities.

Juliann Trevorrow

Juliann Trevorrow: MakerMinded was presented to me as an opportunity for enrichment both in my classroom and after school. Currently, we are mostly using MakerMinded to drive our activities during Science and Engineering Club, which is a new opportunity for our students at Alliance Middle School (AMS).

In the spring, I am expanding participation into our STEM classes at AMS. We found that we were already doing most of the activities, but now we are just logging the points and reflecting more on the experience, from both the teacher and student perspectives.

Q: What is your role in the MakerMinded activities?

RN: Because I was one of the four or five staff members from DRSS at the Project: Wright presentation, what we as a school do with MakerMinded revolves around the STEM programs. The other teachers from DRSS who attended the session were math- and social-studies-focused and so were not as interested in this competition, which is focused on manufacturing and STEM fields. (Editor’s note: Heather Sherman and Julie Francis from Battelle gave this presentation. If you’re interested in a MakerMinded presentation at your school, send us a note.)

After talking with the Project: WRIGHT presenters about the Manufacturing Day field trip we took with our sixth-graders, and the entire school’s participation in a solar-eclipse viewing, I knew we were well on our way to earning points from just these activities. I signed up with MakerMinded as the school representative and shared the competition and excitement for it with other teachers on my sixth-grade team.

DRSS No. 5 Solar Eclipse Viewing

JT: My roles in the MakerMinded activities have been as leader and facilitator. I am the one driving most of the logging of points as well as the facilitation of the activities, whether in my classroom or during Science and Engineering Club.

Q: Give us some examples of activities that your students have taken on. What have you found successful, and what not so much?

RN: Here are some of the activities we have participated in:

  • Hosting a STEM or manufacturing guest speaker — Vectren Day
  • Participating in Manufacturing Day — field trip to PCU (Production Control Units)
  • Holding a solar eclipse viewing event
  • Creating something using Maker Technology
  • Participating in Lego League
  • Holding a Science Olympiad
  • Participating in MATHCOUNTS

We have not participated in some activities that use specific materials or technology that must be purchased separately. Also, some activities take place outside of the school day, and not all students are able to attend.

JT: Some of the activities we have completed include participation in an engineering design challenge, holding a Siemens STEM Day, building a marshmallow tower, participating in Edheads and creating a STEM Club.

Alliance No. 1

The most successful activities have included designing prototype items within a team setting, such as the engineering design challenge where we created a robotic arm, or the Siemens STEM Day where we created structures to withstand hurricane-force winds.

The students enjoy competing against one another but also taking part in the hands-on creating that is occurring. The biggest challenge for us is having the time to complete the activities as well as remembering to log the points. In the future, we plan to expand the MakerMinded opportunities for our students by increasing the time allowance within the school day.

Q: Why has MakerMinded been successful with your students? 

RN: The day I heard about this competition, I signed our school up. During our next sixth-grade team meeting, I discussed this competition, and the team could tell I was excited. We discussed the great things that our students are involved in and how this competition could help them display their STEM-related activities. We also identified that we had just taken our sixth-graders on a Manufacturing Day field trip a few weeks before.

I presented the competition to each of my sixth-grade science classes, shared with them the video of the Virtual Lab we are going to win in May for earning the most points as a school and then helped them all sign up and create personal accounts using their school email addresses.

After they signed up, I had 25 students submit their points for participating in Manufacturing Day and 25 others submit their points for going on a manufacturing field trip.

For a homework assignment, I asked my sixth-graders to look through the activities in the MakerMinded competition and list those they had already completed — which they could then submit points for — and then list activities they would like to be involved in before May 2018.

From the students’ lists I made a master list of activities already completed and those we hope to complete this school year.

I emailed the entire school staff about MakerMinded but did not get much feedback. So I will be discussing the MakerMinded competition at a faculty/staff meeting and how we can earn points for our school to win the state of Ohio.

JT: The biggest reason for MakerMinded being so successful is the “all-in” approach we are taking. I am fully invested, as well as the administration in our district, in finding activities to complete in class and after school. We are working through the obstacles of time and limited budgets to make the most of our chances to complete tasks.

I think with our open-mindedness, we are more successful than if I worked within my comfort zone of teaching typical lessons.

Q:  Would you recommend this program to other teachers?

RN: Yes. It’s a great way to encourage students to share, through this public space, the great STEM- and manufacturing-related activities they are involved in. We also invite the competition. I would love to see more STEM-related activities that schools are providing their students.

In my years of teaching and working with students, I have learned that competition and recognition both greatly influence their buy-in for different activities. Winning the grand prize would be great, too!

JT: I would highly recommend all schools to register and to allow their teachers and students to participate in the MakerMinded program. I have found that students are better able to reflect on their learning and be proud of their work when it is being published for others to see.

I also find we are expanding beyond our walls to increase the STEM opportunities for our students. Some of these include having speakers in our classrooms, hosting community events and sending our students to local STEM events. I would also like to see our competition grow, especially around us in Stark County.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about this program and its use by your students? What have you learned from your participation with it and what would you advise other teachers concerning its use? 

RN: Getting teachers involved beyond their curriculum takes some buy-in, but presenting it as a great way for students to display their work or accomplishments is a place to start.

One leveling factor for this competition is that you can submit points for only 25 participants per activity. So the size of the school does not matter; you will not be beaten because a school has more students who complete one activity. Rather, the school that submits points for more total STEM and manufacturing activities will win.

JT: Have all students at your school register for a MakerMinded account so they can log the points along the way and so students can provide timely feedback on their experiences.

Also, I would say that most of the activities can be done on a limited budget and as enrichment to activities already completed in class. So don’t be afraid to jump in!


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