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Cooley Makerspace hosts variety of creative activities

The integrated library and media center at Cooley Middle School is a bustling place in the mornings. From the time students are dropped off and to the time classes begin, Gilbert students crowd the newly designated Makerspace to tinker, explore and learn via engaging activities.

Makerspace is a new creative environment at Cooley that encourages students to utilize and develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Activities range from deconstructing computers to navigating Spero, a sphere-shaped robot that can be controlled to move with a smartphone or tablet. Arts and craft stations are also set up for students to create cards, fold origami and learn how to crochet.

However, Kimberly Murphy, the media center technician at Cooley Middle School, said all of these activities only encompass a small portion of what the Makerspace has to offer.

“We have a variety of things to try to help us involve the kids,” Murphy said. “Maybe computer coding is not your thing or tech take-apart is not your thing. That is why I have arts and crafts -- and I have games -- so that there is something for everybody to enjoy doing when they’re in here. This is kind of the congregating space in the morning, and I don't want it to be a traditional quiet library.”

She said she plans guest visits with volunteers so that skilled professionals can come in and teach students how to utilize some of the center’s workstations. But Murphy will often give introductory presentations of the equipment, as well.

Cooley Principal Shawn Varner said he is excited about the new program at the school.

“Kim has done an amazing job with the Makerspace program in the library. She hit the ground running with a vision, and she hasn’t looked back,” he said.

Mason Hollenbeck, an eighth-grader at Cooley, said he has been coming to Makerspace since it first opened during seventh-grade year. He enjoyed playing chess against friends and deconstructing, then reconstructing, technology hardware.

“Last year there were computers and there was a printer, and [other students] kept trying to take it apart -- I put all of that back together,” Hollenbeck said. “It was really fun and it probably helped me become president of robotics.”

Murphy said she is always trying to find new ways to improve the media center and hopes the Makerspace becomes a place students feel comfortable coming to.

“Who said a library needs to always be quiet?” Murphy said. “This is where kids can come and hang out.”