Dante DePaola is a biology teacher at Piner High School in Santa Rosa, California, and part of our initial group of Makerspace schools. He also happens to run a successful motorcycle business on the side. His interest in making – especially with regards to the rich, relevant experiences it provides for his students – is evident from the first sentence of any conversation with him to the awesome space that he and his students, the Piner Makers, now inhabit for their Make class, the first in the Santa Rosa district.
He and his students, an eclectic bunch of wonderfully fun and insightful high-schoolers, have truly created the Piner High School Makerspace from scratch. The industrial space had no tables when he first moved in, so the students built them, learning how to cut, assemble, and balance form and function. Stools? Built those too. Since starting in August/September of 2012, Dante’s students have designed, iterated, and created a number of impressive projects. They have deconstructed electronic devices, built bridges, and developed structures to prevent eggs from cracking upon impact. Many of them folded paper airplanes for the first time (!) before moving onto designing and creating beautiful balsa-wood airplanes complete with heat-shrunk plastic membranes covering the wings to encourage lift. In the past few weeks, Dante’s students have drawn and built iPod speakers (made from scratch, out of two-part foam and fiberglass) of the most creative shapes, sizes, and types. An iPod speaker, in a fire/flame-inspired shape before the fiberglass layer, is shown at right. At left, Dante and two of his students prepare their materials and safety masks (in well-ventilated outdoor spaces) for the fiberglass step. The projects are well documented by Dante on his Piner Makers blog at pinermaker.blogspot.com. You can also watch and listen to a recent Hangout we did with Dante, where his passion and care for this work and his students is clearly apparent.
One key thing Dante mentions in the hangout is his Wall of Making. Students are encouraged to bring in newspaper articles, do some individual research, or document their own work — and show off examples of making that they connect to. Examples are plastered all over the wall; these mini bits of inspiration show how broad and varied making is, and how it reaches just about anyone and everyone.
Dante also exhibited at last weekend’s mini Maker Faire in Sonoma County. The Press Democrat covered the event, reporting on the wide variety of hands-on projects that engaged the kids. Also attending the event was Comstock Middle School, where a Maker Camp was held last summer for the first time, a program co-sponsored by Maker Media and the local Boys and Girls club. Comstock’s Maker Camp will take place again this summer in 2013, and Piner High School will add an additional Physics Maker class to its course options for 2013-14.
With the support of the community and the passion of teachers, making is, well, starting to make a mark in schools and with students. Let’s help this forward momentum grow!