Room to grow

Baldi Middle School transforms old library into a Makerspace for students.

Creating something extraordinary: CCA Baldi Middle School, 8801 Verree Road, unveiled its new Makerspace on June 19. The classroom includes a 3D printer, advanced materials cutting device and iPad peripheral devices. JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTO

Anything is possible with teamwork.

On June 19, approximately 70 volunteers from the biopharmaceutical company AbbVie and Heart of America joined with members of CCA Baldi Middle School, 8801 Verree Road, to renovate an old library into a Makerspace. This effort was part of AbbVie’s fifth annual “Week of Possibilities,” which included partnerships with nonprofits around the world.

Just a couple of months ago, Luke Hostetter, principal at Baldi, and Gloria Chernyakhovsky, media arts and technology specialist/technology teacher leader, were brainstorming on ways to enhance the student experience at their school. The school is anticipating its largest class to date, with 1,500-plus students enrolled for the fall, but thought it was time to bring some new ways of teaching to the classroom.

Hostetter and Chernyakhovsky are aware of the growing trends of Makerspaces and Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STREAM) education in middle schools across the country, so they decided to pursue bringing this to Baldi.

In the spring, Hostetter became aware of a grant that could help make this dream into a reality. The library in Baldi had served its purpose of helping the students, but the chance to transform this room into a Makerspace was an opportunity too good to pass on for the school.

“We service 11- to 14-year-olds and we’re noticing more and more career exposure at this age is so important for students to say, ‘Hey, I’m interested in science and this is how my learning and understanding of science can be applied to a career or making something,’ ” said Hostetter. “We are a large neighborhood public school and a space like this can really transform students’ opportunities.”

Once the green light was given a couple of months ago, Chernyakhovsky was excited to play a role in helping bring this new space to the school. Chernyakhovsky, the second-year teacher at the school and alum of Baldi, is proud of her alma mater, but when she was hired to be full time in 2016, she thought the school needed to be modernized.

This Makerspace certainly fits what she had envisioned for this school to make the students’ experience special.

“It’s unique for them now because after years and years and years and years of the testing types of education, these kinds of classrooms…” Chernyakhovsky said, comparing them to various types of “home-ec” classes of the past. “This is bringing them back.”

The Makerspace includes a 3D printer, advanced materials cutting device and iPad peripheral devices, with the latest updates for Adobe applications as well. Renovations are also being made to the “WHYY room” that is used for broadcasting and audio editing.

John Duffey, vice president, U.S. Specialty for AbbVie, was one of the volunteers from the company present the day the Makerspace was being put together. He was enamored with the multitude of 21st century learning options provided in the room and could only imagine what the students will be able to accomplish there starting in the fall.

“We’re a bit older, but this wasn’t our learning experience when we were kids,” Duffey said. “I wish we had this when we were younger.”

The students will get their first chance to use this new space in the fall, so the administration has high expectations for what the students will make of the new room.

“We really want our students to be creating whatever their minds can fathom to use in the school,” said Hostetter. “So, we’re excited.”

The administration is also hoping to have those from outside of the school use the space when the time is appropriate as well.

Two murals were also painted inside the school during the same time the Makerspace was being completed. ••

John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com