Students create during Pacer Space Camp


The third floor of Willis Education Center was full of students, materials, and ideas this week as the district held Pacer Space Camp.

The camp was designed by Assistant Superintendent Misty Swanger along with several teaching and learning coaches and aimed to give students a chance to design and create things using a “maker space” and equipment like large format printers, 3D printers and cardboard.

The camp was split by grade level and had elementary school students in the morning and students from Dempsey Middle School in the afternoon.

Teaching and Learning Coach Paul Tankovich, who was one of the instructors in the afternoon session alongside Heath Gordon, said the goal of the camp was to allow students to start learning creative problem solving skills.

“We wanted to make sure we had the opportunity here for students at Delaware City Schools to start developing that creative problem solving with tools that are being used out in the real world,” Tankovich said. “We’re having them work with 3D printing, which is going to keep growing with where it’s used. We wanted to get the kids using them. (We wanted to) get them not only using the materials but thinking and creating and doing the problem solving and design process.”

Tankovich said the students showed a lot of independence during the camp.

“It’s not about them asking for (what to do), we want them do develop the skills of designing and making,” he said. “We want them to be the makers. Watching these kids, they don’t need to be told what to do. We give them a challenge and then get to watch them figure out how they want to do it. So often, old school teaching and learning, you force them to do one thing and train them, here is letting them learn and grow. (I enjoy) seeing that excitement with them.”

He likened the camp to a shop class.

“We want them to have the skills to physically create something,” Tankovich said. “It’s really not much different than what used to be called ‘shop.’ You have to work with your hands to create and over time, some of that got lost. This is trying to make sure it’s coming back. Those skills are part of what they need to do in the future as they run into problems so they aren’t paralyzed when they run into them. Technology … changes what’s being done in the classroom, so that’s why we get to support it.”

Teaching and Learning coach Mandy Mays said she hopes students took away knowledge during the camp that they need to learn from mistakes.

“It’s about trying something, making a mistake and learning something,” Mays said. “I think they’ve gotten a lot better about that. They’ve been very excited about their work.”

PJ Terry, a fellow teaching and learning coach, said the camp gives students the opportunity to spend more time on a given project and to make edits and revisions.

“Kids hate to edit,” Terry said. “The second round of something is always tedious to students, but it’s very important. (We want them) prototyping work and then spending time with it to decide what they want to do with it … how to edit and change it.”

Terry said he had a student create a project using Legos and encouraged him to just sit with it for a little longer.

“He made three edits that he wouldn’t have made if I had said, ‘Okay you’re done, go do something else,’” Terry said. “Big machines are cool, but it’s the building with cardboard or programming the robot to do three things you want him to do. … It’s really just exploration.”

Terry said the goal is to eventually bring students to the maker space during the school year on field trips and said the camp was a learning experience for the staff and the students.

“We’re exploring our learning,” he said “We told them, ‘We are going to learn from you this week, we want to see how you utilize what we put in front of you,’ and they’ve taken that very seriously.”

Avery Lewis, an incoming sixth grader, said the camp had been “very fun” and enjoyed working on the projects.

“I liked building (a cardboard project) because we felt like we were actually building something,” Lewis said.

Gabe Cramer, an incoming seventh grader, said he liked making things before the camp but had no experience working on the larger-scale projects.

“It was awesome,” Cramer said. “I liked having the creativity to make your own stuff. I liked the freedom of (deciding) what to make.”

Olivia Cinereski, an incoming sixth grader, said she signed up for the camp because it “sounded exciting” and “thought it sounded like it would be fun.”

“I liked that I got to design it, and I’ve never made a sticker before so it was really cool to see,” Cinereski said. “At home I draw stuff, but I don’t do big (projects).”

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.

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