Central Point School District’s practical skills offerings have room to grow in the next year — specifically 21,000 square feet of room.
Samantha Steele, Central Point schools superintendent, said the district’s plan to open a makerspace will allow it to expand what she called “authentic learning.”
“We knew we wanted to do more with applied learning for students, but we needed to make it easier for staff,” Steele said.
That relief came in the form of a 1980s warehouse that formerly housed Crater Iron, which the school district purchased in December 2017 after months of discussion. Called CraterWorks, district officials plan to open the makerspace not only to schools, but to community members for all kinds of educational, technical and educational pursuits.
District officials said that while the school district owns the building and will supply the equipment, CraterWorks will be a hub springing from the partnerships between it, the city and industry professionals.
The school district’s primary goal with the site is to boost its efforts to weave applied learning into specialized high school classes, as well as core classes at every grade level.
“We want to do something for every kid,” Steele said. “We really want to ensure that when a student in Central Point School District crosses the stage at graduation, he or she is prepared to go into the workforce or a vocation, or college — that they have that choice.”
Other school districts embracing technical education often do so through specific classes that meet the federal definition of Career and Technical Education. Central Point also does this through avenues such as its agriculture program. Steele said her school district’s position, however, is that hands-on learning can and should be wrapped into more diverse areas of instruction, whether they’re in a shop, English or math class.
The space will include stations and equipment for various kinds of work, from traditional shop classes such as wood and metalworking to more contemporary technical activities, such as a recording studio and computer lab for graphics and computer-assisted design.
"Our idea was that we would create a space that would be available to students and teachers as part of their core curriculum but would also be available to the community,” Steele said.
District leadership based its concept of the makerspace on a Portland company called ADX, where people can create individually or take classes. During its retreat in the summer of 2016, officials watched a film about hands-on learning and built a chandelier out of bike frames together at the space.
The district plans to create a membership model for interested partners to use the space. Memberships would bring in revenue that would go back into funding staffing and upkeep of the makerspace. The goal, officials said, is to create a self-sustaining model.
That work will be facilitated by Central Point educational nonprofit Direct Involvement Recreational Teaching, more commonly known as D.I.R.T. The organization launched in 2014 and works to encourage collaborative learning, usually involving natural resources. It has partnered with Central Point School District on several previous projects, including an Outdoor Recreational Learning Center nestled in a former parking lot behind Pine Street, and a self-sustaining aquaponics system at Jewett Elementary School.
“We’re here as the community side of things,” said Executive Director Taneea Browning. “People want to be part of the solution … everyone that I’ve talked to about this has said, ‘When?’ ”
The city is also supportive, said Community Development Director Tom Humphrey, who called it “a visionary reuse with a lot of community benefit,” if it can live up to the concept of ADX that inspired it.
Three of the district’s elementary schools — Jewett, Central Point and Sams Valley — have opened their own makerspaces. Assistant Superintendent of Education Todd Bennett said that career and technical education classes have been popular wherever they have been offered.
The district is now in its design phase, seeking input from city partners in meetings this week to decide on what equipment would be best to fill the space based on public interest. Steele said the target for opening CraterWorks is January 2019.