When the bell rings at the end of the school day at Sakai Intermediate about 12 fifth- and sixth-graders rush over to Maker Space to begin what many of them think is their most important work of the day – making stuff.
As the kids enter Room 203 and gravitate to an area where they find random supplies lying on tables, in bins, boxes and shelves, the students come alive with chatter, music and laughter. They look forward to this all day, especially since lunchtime access was halted when Omicron COVID-19 cases spiked in January.
Mark Gurtler, who provides technology support at Sakai, watches over the flurry of activity and answers a multitude of questions that the students pepper him with as they tinker, glue, paint and bring their creations to life.
Gurtler has been at Sakai since the school opened in 2001 and saw a need for a space where kids could make things. He started the Maker Space about five years ago.
A few years ago, Gurtler attended a Maker Space workshop and learned that children experience their highest level of creativity in the fifth grade. “As school goes on, they worry more about their grades and their interest in creating goes down,” he said.
There is little formality to time spent in the space because the focus is on creating and having fun. Kids can make stop motion animation films, work on electronics with donated computer parts and pieces, paint, make toys or do whatever else they desire.
Fifth-grader Maggie Carson was making “corkettes,” her version of squat dolls made from corks. “I like crafting because I don’t have a crafting place at home, so this is where I go,” she said.
Maggie enjoys coming to the Maker Space after school, and she can’t wait until March when hours will resume during lunch.
Near the piano, two boys were making music; sixth-grader Rowan Toler is on the electric guitar and George Wolffe is jamming alongside him with a cigar box banjo. At first, it doesn’t sound like much, but then they find a rhythm, and the duo spontaneously creates music that fills the room.
“I like the chance to create stuff. I don’t really get to do that much. Here, I just get to make stuff,” George said.
Rowan, who switched to playing the piano, said he likes playing many instruments, especially electric guitar.
After a minute or two Rowan is working on the old Elton John tune “Your Song,” and a few people begin humming along as he plays the notes for, “How wonderful life is, while you’re in the world,” which provides a little accompaniment for the tinkers, crafters and musicians in the room.