Special Needs Lab

This schoolyear a big change has occurred at our space. We have expanded our space with 400 square meters to start a new school for children with special needs, combining traditional school with our makerspace adding 40 students and 12 new colleagues to our daily life. The idea of the new school is that the first part of the day is “traditional school” and the second half takes places in our different workshop areas, including “Fablab Skanderborg”.

My part in this was starting a 1½ hour long weekly subject simply called “Fablab”. The idea was to both to introduce some of the new teachers together with their students to makerbased learning.  As I am writing this blog, I just had the last of the 7 times which the experiment consisted of. The conclusion is simple – It was a huge succes!

Here are some of the things that has happened or that we have observed.

Involvement

  • Students come by during their breaks to start a 3D-print, lasercut something or just hang around and have a talk.
  • 4 out of 8 students have joined my afterschool program “Fablab Freetime”
  • 2 of the students also continued into our openlab night – which means that they on that day in total have been in the lab from 12:15 – 21:00 (The subject “Fablab”, “Fablab Freetime” and “Openlab”)

Activity

  • Few instructional session to learn a bit of inkscape, 3D-modelling and coding micro:bit.
  • They have been full of ideas and have worked either on their own or together with one other student.
  • Most ideas have been revolved around making something for someone else.
  • They have mastered the use of the different machines and help each other in a degree I have seldom witnessed.
  • During openlab, they offer their help to adult guest who are new to the lab.
  • They interact and establish relations to other “regular students” in “Fablab Freetime”

It has been 7 interesting weeks. I had first thought that I would have to make more instructional teaching with this kind of students, but that changed after the first session. They simple had too many things they wanted to make to be bothered by my teachings – it quickly became a lot more student centered. Of course they needed a lot of guiding to start with, but most of them mastered the different machines (lasercut, vinylcut, 3D-print) rather quickly. Mainly because they were good at showing each other how to use the machines they have learned, through the variety of project types. Learning what they needed to know, when the need occurred.

I have a theory that a large part of the succes comes from mastering some fabrication technologies, that enables them to make things. They are not just reproducing things, but are making and creating things for others. And in a world where “Special Needs” often is looked upon as equal to “inadequate” it must be a boost of self esteem to be able to do something that not everyone (including their normal teachers) can do yet.

Another thing that strikes me is how many ideas they get. They are really creative in many ways, much more than I experience with so called “regular students”, where it often is a bit of a process to get the ideas flowing.

The best thing to come out of this, was the way that they just took the lab to heart. Staying after school, late into the evening to make more stuff, helping people coming to openlab, but also hanging around, having fun and establishing relations to other young kids.

We are soon starting round two and everyone has chosen to continue. We will have a few more students due to the high interest, and we will use some of the most experienced students as helpers. I am really looking forward to see what the next round will bring.

“Build something that dances” was the only project that I chose for them. In the video we mainly see Victors build which he loved doing and is working on an iteration of the design that involves remote-controlling it with micro:bit. The prompt “Build something that dances” is inspired from the article by Tracy Rudzitis in “Meaningful making: Projects and inspiration for Fab Labs + Makerspaces” p. 102

 

 

 

 

 

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