Heidi Hayes and Allison Rogers had no idea they would spend part of a recent morning trying to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on a laptop by tapping a banana and a hunk of Play-Doh.
“I still can’t quite wrap my brain around this,” said Hayes, chuckling. The pair, from Wexford-Missaukee Regional Educational Media Center and Clinton County REMC, respectively, got to goof around with a room of more than two dozen other adults, all in the name of helping children learn better.
Teachers and students across the state: Those musical bananas are headed your way. And they’re bringing friends.
REMC staffers from intermediate school districts across Michigan attended a workshop recently to learn to use dozens of projects they packed into large plastic tubs and took back to their districts.
The kits contain “makerspace” activities that include the parts to make the musical fruit (or vegetable); blocks that can be used by pre-K to high school students for STEM, geography, dexterity and art; and a robot students can control with an iPad — if they have programmed it correctly.
“The maker philosophy is just (about) ‘play, tinker,’ ” explained Ann Smart, from Jackson County ISD. “When you give kids time to just tinker, their collaboration, creativity and problem-solving skills really jump into action.”
Ron Houtman, Kent ISD educational technology consultant, said each project inside the kit aligns with curriculum and incorporates lessons in STEM, art, teamwork and communication, to name a few.
“A lot of time, when you ask kids to describe school in one word, that word is ‘boring,'” Houtman said. “We’re trying to not have them answer that way anymore.”
REMC Association of Michigan funded the $70,000 cost to purchase 28 kits. Executive Director Sue Schwartz said the association spends up to $300,000 a year to fund initiatives pitched by REMC staff who work to meet the needs of local ISDs.