Makerspace Gives Students at Crossroad Room to Create

Students work on a podcast in their Makerspace.

The staff at Crossroad Academy, part of Crossroad Child & Family Services in Fort Wayne, Ind., knew they were on to something after the school became a project-based learning New Tech Academy during the pandemic. The response from the youth to the shift toward experiential learning was positive, and students and teachers continue to be excited about the possibilities for student empowerment inherent in the system. So when staff and faculty wanted to enhance the New Tech experience, a Makerspace was the answer. Makerspaces are rooms that contain different tools and equipment that help students create projects based on their ideas.

“We wanted a space where kids could learn skills and trades that they could use throughout life, either in careers or as hobbies,” said Kyle Zanker, Crossroad’s director of development. “Our new Makerspace, seeded by a grant, will allow us to provide those hands-on experiences.”

Once funding was secured, the Crossroad staff turned to a Student Advisory Group comprised of students and faculty. The group visited other Makerspaces at nearby schools and community libraries to research what might go into Crossroad’s space. The group then solicited ideas from the students at the academy to find out what they were interested in having in the space. “We wanted the youth to be a big part of making these choices,” said Zanker. The list of possible items also was reviewed by Crossroad’s clinical staff to determine the safety of the items being chosen.

The new Makerspace opened in January 2022. “With all of the things that the children and youth were restricted from doing because of the pandemic, this was something that piqued their interest and was fun for them to do on campus,” Zanker said. “Because they had some say in what was included in the room, they have taken a lot of pride and ownership in the space and have shown a lot of passion.”

Currently, the room includes a podcast studio, a 3-D printer, a silk-screen printer, a poster maker, and other related items. The space can be used by an individual, a small group, or an entire class (8-10 students) at one time. “Students take turns using the Makerspace throughout the school day, and sometimes during school breaks,” said Zanker. “The Makerspace is primarily used by all children in our school, but we plan to open opportunities for clients in our home-based programs as well.”

Crossroad hopes to add to the Makerspace over time as funding and space allows. The items the students create in the Makerspace are included in project presentations in class, and their works also will be seen or heard at special events at Crossroad. For example this past summer, they used the podcast equipment for weekly updates during the creation of their sensory garden project. Eventually, some of the podcases will be posted to Crossroad’s YouTube channel.

Currently, students are learning about marketing by creating posters with the Makerspace’s design software and poster maker. Each classroom of students is marketing the strengths (that they have determined) for their class. 

Additionally, the Student Advisory Group is working on designs for a “student of the month t-shirt.” “When we announce a new Student of the Month, we will be able to give that student a special shirt designed by fellow students,” Zanker said.

Along with the Makerspace, Crossroad recently secured funding to add a music room to the academy. The room allows students the ability to make vocal and instrumental music in garage-band style. And what’s created in the music room may add an additional spark to projects in the Makerspace.

“Our children and youth are showing lots of growth, both socially and academically, through their experiences with our New Tech teaching method and in the Makerspace and music room,” added Zanker. “We are thrilled to see their creative ideas and the projects they produce.”

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