Mirroring our school district’s focus on the growth mindset, we believe that all students have the ability to increase their intelligence through purposeful and sustained effort. We also believe that as 21st century teachers, we have the responsibility to provide our students with authentic, embedded learning opportunities that will prepare them for the future. One of the ways we were able to make this a reality for all 450 students and staff was through a grant we wrote: Thinking Outside the Beta Box. Fortunately, this grant was fully funded - by the Public School Foundation and the PTA.
BetaBox is a mobile prototyping lab - in a shipping container.
The Beta Box project was two-fold: a week long, in school event as well as, an evening STEaM Night for families. All of our students participated in a dense week of carefully curated maker workshops utilizing various technologies to help students gain hands-on experience using technology to solve problems while working collaboratively. This provided a platform for students to gain confidence in technology, engineering and the design thinking process, while strengthening critical observation, empathy and social skills.
Before the students engaged with the BetaBox, all classes viewed this quick introductory video on the morning of the BetaBox arrival.
Every class had an hour with the Betaversity facilitators. While half the class worked inside of the box, the other half worked in our Exploratorium.
Grades 4 & 5 assembled and tested working prosthetic hands for a real children in need through a partnership with the UNC non-profit organization, Helping Hands. Students were exposed to socially responsible manufacturing, 3D printing, assembly and testing of basic robotics and biomedical engineering. It was incredible to see our students engage in real-world application, purpose and responsibility through hands-on learning.
Students in grades PreK-3 interacted with 3D printers, laser cutters and design thinking through the “Flowers Project”. They observed the lasers cutting their names into the petals and the 3D printers in action creating the plastic “flower bud” which housed a small battery and an LED light. Students had the opportunity to figure out how to assemble the flower and install the digital flower into the garden or take home and share with family and friends.
In addition to the grade level projects, when the students were working in the Exploratorium, they experienced many maker tools including: LittleBits, Makey Makey, 3D scanning of each student and more.
Check out the video below for a recap of our week with the BetaBox.
The BetaBox and the Betaversity facilitators culminated their time with us by joining us for STEaM Night. Students were able to bring their families through the Box and introduce them to our new "teachers" that became like family to both our staff and students. The curiosity, wonder and excitement sparked by the presence of the BetaBox reminded us all of what authentic learning is all about.