Schools that Can’s Maker programs & design days for K-8 is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: K-8 teachers in schools in low-income communities
Location: In school; multiple locations: Bronx Charter School for Better Learning, Bronx Community Charter School, Bronx Lab, Concourse Village Academy, Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, Food and Finance High School, Girls Prep Middle School – Lower East Side; EPIC North High School, Harlem Academy, Hellenic Classical Charter School, High School for Excellence and Innovation, Journey Prep PS69X; MESA – Math, Engineering and Science Academy Charter High School; Mott Haven Academy; Pioneer Academy PS307Q; PS17Q; PS376K Felisa Rincon de Gautier; The Rosa Parks School PS254Q; St. Ignatius School; South Bronx Community Charter School; TALES – The Active Learning Elementary School PS244Q; Transfiguration School; Trey Whitfield School; VOICE Charter School; Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School
Frequency/Duration: 90 minutes per week from September to June; teachers get 3–4 off-site trainings per year.
Eligibility Criteria: The organization’s focus is on reaching K–8 schools where at least 60 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced price lunch, and that serve historically marginalized students. For Maker Fellows, schools must be committed to continuous improvement through collaboration with Schools That Can (STC) throughout the school year.
The organization also partners with “well-resourced independent schools,” including charters and faith-based schools, some of which are eager to share their “highly resourced maker spaces” with lower-income schools. Schools That Can will help them do that; for example, they connected an independent Upper East Side school that has extensive maker and design labs with a school in the South Bronx.
Curriculum: Professional development program equips teachers to lead project-based maker education curriculum focused on CS and STEM, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and persistence. Partly aligned to NGSS, common core, K–12 CS Framework.
A typical lesson has students design and build a solution to a problem using a combination of digital tools and crafts items. Depending on the challenge, students might use Tinkercad to create a 3D design, or cardboard and LED lights to build a prototype, for example.
Outcomes: Teachers running STC maker programs (in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Newark, St. Louis, NYC) demonstrated a 27 percent increase in ability to incorporate CS and computational thinking into classes. 85 percent of students in STC maker programs can picture themselves in a job using computers.
Partnerships: Da Vinci Schools; Next Generation Learning Challenges; Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights; Student Success Network; Dream See Do; 180 Skills; Maker State; The Research Alliance for NYC Schools; Horatio Alger Association
Sources of funding: Private
What makes the program stand out? While it also partners with middle schools, STC is among the few organizations focused on professional development for K–5 teachers, and that emphasizes computational thinking skills for elementary school students. Younger students “naturally want to be tactile and creative,” and have little opportunity for that during the school day, according to Roger Horton, manager of STC maker programs in New York City. Maker education is also a natural vehicle for teaching students problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and persistence, according to research by Schools That Can.
What do participants need to succeed? To overcome negative stereotypes around girls in STEM: Research by STC has found that such perceptions may take root as early as third grade. As a result, “By middle school, [students] may be less likely to collaborate or take risks,” Horton said.
Less complications around paying for programs and more basic resources. “There’s a lot of bureaucracy that principals have to go through . . . Most school leaders get that the earlier you start [with STEM and maker programs], the better,” said Horton, but they face challenges around “having the right staff and hardware in place.”
What does the organization need? Funding. STC wants to expand its Career Skills program for high school students, a career pathway program that aligns to CTE standards and includes help navigating curriculum options, mentorship/internships, and college credit opportunities.
How can the city make the most of the tech skills-building and industry assets it already has? ”I think New York should keep thinking about how to coordinate efforts across the city, remove duplication [in programs] and cover those areas [where there] are gaps,” such as the far reaches of Queens (Flushing, South Richmond Hill, for example), said Horton. Additionally, he’d like to see the city helping connect schools/programs in those more remote neighborhoods with major tech employers, such as airports and the maritime industry, beyond the Aviation High School Annex at J.F.K Int. airport, and New York Harbor School, for example.