It was duct-tape wallets at my house. I got them for my birthday, for Christmas. Heck, we even hunted for them at Easter.

Living in apartments in Brazil and in London, space was always at a premium. Our family learned to live modestly, but we always found room to carry the Legos back on the plane after a trip home to see the grandparents. One year it was a full Thomas the Tank Engine set. Suitcases always had room for more two-sided tape and glue guns (both harder to get overseas than you might imagine).

Those are magical years as a parent — when things get torn apart, inspected, put back together (often resembling nothing like the original object). Art is created from found items in the back of the cupboard or under a tree in the park. The box is always more interesting than the present inside.

It is a shame that the “maker years” of curiosity and discovery have to end.

Or do they?

A walk through the classrooms at Cary Academy quickly demonstrates how intellectual curiosity is alive and well even as students mature beyond the duct-tape years. (OK, scratch that, we never really age-out of finding new uses for duct tape.)

Our 6th-grade scientists are developing their own hypotheses about how things work and doing a bit of reverse engineering on everyday items such as styrofoam cups or refrigerators. Our high school students are programing robots to test concepts in physics class or building scale models of the Cary Academy campus using a 3D printer.

I am proud that in a school so dedicated to the use of computers, we place such strong emphasis on hands-on learning as well. These are integrated, not competing, modes of learning.

A new space for makers

As we make continue efforts to improve opportunities for our students, you will have heard about several new or growing initiatives at Cary Academy:

  • The creation of an integrated Art and Design program for all 9th- and 10th-grade students.
  • The phenomenal growth (and success) of our Science Olympiad program.
  • The introduction of a new robotics classes in the upper school, which will support our growing after school teams.
  • The creation of a new digital film studio and introduction of new film classes.

All of these new efforts require the right kind of equipment and spaces to foster discovery and collaboration. To support this, we are excited to embark on the development of a dedicated “makerspace” for students and teachers at Cary Academy. The space will occupy the current programming classroom in the second floor of our library. Students in the art and design classes will cycle through the space and it will also be a home-base for our Science Olympiad and robotics students. It will be open and modular, hopefully reflecting the flexible needs of thinkers and tinkerers.

Made possible by you

The development of this new space fits directly in with new focus areas in our curriculum, but it would not be possible without the generous support of the Cary Academy community. Funds for equipment are coming directly from proceeds raised from this year’s Cary Academy Fund.

Like the movement we are supporting, our new makerspace will evolve through a process of discovery and collaboration. We look forward to sharing progress reports throughout the next school year.

I still have a few of those duct-tape wallets, and I’m looking forward to seeing what our students can do with even more tools at their disposal.