Wisconsin sixth-grade science instructor Eryca Card knows how crucial it is for young people to learn 21st-century skills in planning their eventual careers. For her, embracing the maker movement means returning creativity, communication and collaboration to education, while extending the classroom experience into the community.

“Seeing all levels of students succeed and discover their strengths and challenges empowers the teacher to perform at the highest possible level, and allows us to bridge generational gaps.”

Launching a Maker Faire

Hoping to give students a chance to demonstrate what they'd accomplished in school, Card approached Elkhorn Area School District superintendent Jason Tadlock about applying for a national license to conduct a Maker Faire, which she describes as a celebration of making, innovation and invention.

“He was very supportive, and we began the task of producing our first Mini Maker Faire, which we felt could enhance our students’ STEM learning, promote their talents and create partnerships with makers in our community."

Last year’s inaugural event attracted more than 1,200 attendees.

“It incorporated our community, businesses and other school districts from around the area, as we know making does not happen in isolation, and neither does the preparation of our students. We want to expose them to all possible career opportunities, and this was one way to bridge education to those careers.

“We support the spirit of creativity, innovation and science during our annual Mini Maker Faire, where our students can showcase things they’ve done in their classes, but are also free to create their own booths based on their interests or talents.”

Project Lead the Way

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a national organization providing hands-on, project-based STEM curriculum for school ages pre-K through grade 12. Card serves as the 4k-8 coordinator for PLTW.

“We recently added early childhood, to have all four of the PLTW pre-K modules in our district. We now have every student from age four through fifth grade participating in two engineering modules, one biomedical science module and one computer science module.”

“At our elementary schools, we also have three after-school STEM programs per year to support students and their curiosity in STEM. At the middle school level, we have STEM Club, Robotics Club, Tech Ninjas, Fluid Power and Newspaper Club. A wide variety of clubs and competitions continue at the high school level.”

As for getting the word out, says Card, “We started our Mini Maker Faire in an effort to promote our PLTW STEM programs, but we have inspired many more students and teachers to get involved, as well as districts throughout southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.”