We aim to create a beautiful, supportive environment on-campus, in which the children of Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto and Eastern Menlo Park have access to new technology and opportunities for creative expression. Teaching children how to adapt to new inventions supports a forward-thinking generation of individuals who can solve complex problems.
Our policy in the Makerspace is to be totally inclusive, non-judgmental, friendly, and playful. While we provide activities to engage and inspire students, it is ultimately a student-focused environment, and it is our responsibility to honor their interests. This team relies on mentors from the surrounding community to engage and advise the students. The diversity of the skill set and demographic of our teammates should reflect the versatility of the Makerspaces themselves. It is important to bring volunteer and job opportunities back into the local community, so that families and neighbors, as well as the students, can be enriched by the experience.
The Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative was founded in 2014 by two educators at the Ravenswood City School District: Robert Pronovost and Mario Cuellar. The two teachers were inspired by Sylvia Martinez’s book Invent to Learn, as well as MakerFaires they attended. Pronovost began by introducing new technology his 2nd grade classes, and Mario did the same in the afterschool program. Determined to share their passion with RCSD students, Pronovost and Cuellar opened the first Makerspace in a portable classroom on the Los Robles campus in October 2014. They had no furniture and very little equipment, but students were already engaged in an environment which had just a couple robots, a laptop, and some cardboard to build with. The duo took initiative and created a proposal for the Superintendent to invest in more equipment.
The Makerspace program achieved buy-in on the District-level and within the student body. The attention Pronovost attracted with his work led him to earn the new position of STEM Coordinator. His resourcefulness led him to unearth research from Paulo Blikstein of Stanford’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab. Meanwhile, Mario Cuellar reached out to Maker Education to collaborate on the development of project guides. The program eventually attracted attention from Facebook and Google, and these corporations donated used technology and new furniture to two Makerspaces. Google, working with Paulo Blikstein’s FabLearn program, then donated a transformative gift of $400,000 which supported the team expansion to include five new Tinkerers to run the Makerspaces.
The outcome today is a tremendous benefit to the Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative, and the Ravenswood City School District, with Site Tinkerers present in each of the seven schools in the District, under the supervision of the K-8 STEM Coordinator. The Makerspaces have been integrated into the student lifestyle, and allow for a greater understanding of concepts and principles taught in class through hands-on learning.