Students from the T.I.D.E.S. program in Old Orchard Beach refinish tables for a new makerspace at the school. SUBMITTED PHOTO

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The basement of Loranger Memorial School has been given a new life as a makerspace.

Loranger Memorial School Instructional Technology Integrator Donna Stearns said she wanted to establish a makerspace in the school where students could design, build and create through hands-on projects.

Where to put it was on of the first obstacles to overcome. Stearns’ first thought was the library, but there wasn’t enough room, so she approached the school about using the basement, which had turns been used for a cafeteria, a martial arts program and storage.
Financial assistance came from the school’s parent teacher organization, which serves students from grades three to eight.

After getting the okay to use the basement space, there was still the issue of cleaning out what Stearns said had become a “dumping ground” filled with items no longer in use such as old athletic equipment and broken desks. “You name it, it was down here,” she said.

Stearns approached Mark Oliver who teaches in the T.I.D.E.S. alternative high school program. Oliver had students in their senior year who needed to complete internship hours in order to graduate.

Six T.I.D.E.S. students, along with volunteers from the University of New England in Biddeford, helped to create the new space.

The T.I.D.E.S. students took a tour of the UNE makerspace to get ideas of what such a program should look like. The local high school students busied themselves with hauling out trash, painting floors and walls, filling in holes with concrete and sanding and refinishing old tables.

“There wasn’t an area they didn’t touch,” Oliver said.

Stearns and Oliver approached the project with the students as a job, and the students learned the expectations of work versus a school project. The students worked within a budget to make sure that money was spent in a cost-effective way.

“A lot of the decisions were made by the kids,” Stearns said.

The makerspace has brightly painted blue walls. There are newly refinished tables along the sides of the main room and open space in the middle to give students room to work on projects.

A smaller room has shelves of neatly organized supplies. Stearns envisions the room being used by students in all grades working on a variety of projects including making objects with cardboard, building robots with LEGO MINDSTORMS or building solar powered toy cars.

The flexible space can be used for a number of activities where students can learn creativity along with other skills during open-ended exploration, Stearns said.

 Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected].

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