BY PAUL DOWNER
Delano Public Schools
DELANO, MN With its blue walls and large windows, the dedicated art room and “makerspace” on the second floor at Delano Elementary School does have something of a fish-bowl feel.
There are plenty of ideas floating around the Imaginarium these days, as students and teachers explore the unique new setting.
“This room is so cool,” and numerous variations of that phrase echoed back-and-forth while Julie Williams’ second-grade class visited the space and constructed items out of “Strawbees” earlier this month.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to be creative and just have fun together, to use their imagination and work on problem solving,” said Williams, who thanked fellow second-grade teachers Nate Uselding and Amanda Anderson for their work to organize the Imaginarium.
Uselding explained that the makerspace area has been in the works for the past several years. Funding from the United Way and the DES PIE group, along with space availability when fourth-graders departed DES this year, helped pave the way for the room.
While there, students will participate in hands-on building with Strawbees and Keva blocks, explore coding with Bee Bots and Sphero balls, and try circuitry and various other projects.
Each month will have a specific theme with associated challenges, from making geometric shapes to creating items that spin.
“It’s about having kids try new things, construct things, finding out what fails, and going through the whole design process,” explained Uselding. “They can ask questions and imagine what’s going to happen, then try it out. If it doesn’t work, they can go back and try to find out why.”
“It’s collaborative. It promotes critical thinking and creative thinking,” said Anderson.
All elementary students will have opportunities to use the Imaginarium throughout the year. While other area schools are working to provide similar opportunities through materials on carts or other arrangements, Delano’s Imaginarium has advantages.
“I think it’s pretty unique to have a dedicated space for it,” Uselding said.