Students are experiencing something new in local schools: control. At least, they are in Amie Shinego’s technology classroom at Thompson Middle School, thanks to her partnership with FabNewport, a nonprofit maker lab where students, educators, and community members of all ages tinker and create.

FabNewport is creating a ripple effect across the state, having impacted more than 3,500 individuals and having forged partnerships with more than two dozen schools and organizations.

Now, in this school year hundreds of students will experience for the first time the transformative educational principles FabNewport is spreading across RI public and private schools.

TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF “MAKING” RIPPLES ACROSS RI SCHOOLS

New grants, community partnerships make work possible

When Amie Shinego’s students walk into her technology classroom at Thompson Middle School after Labor Day, they will experience something new in her classroom: control.

After demonstrating several basic skills, Shinego’s students will have use of a 3D printer and a vinyl cutter to make…whatever. Previously, Shinego dictated specific tasks her students had to complete in a tightly structured environment. Now, she is practicing the art of letting go. Shinego credits her transformation as a teacher to FabNewport, a nonprofit maker lab where students, educators, and community members of all ages tinker and create. It’s a journey FabNewport Executive Director Steve Heath savors.

“Everyday I see the power of letting people create,” Heath said. “When students are interested, their curiosity drives their learning.”

FabNewport’s impact on Shinego is part of the many individual and organizational partnerships that is creating a ripple effect across a largely traditional educational system. Since its founding in July 2013, FabNewport has influenced more than 3,500 people to expand how they think about problems and solutions in fun and innovative ways. More than 100 educators, like Shinego, have taken professional development courses. And FabNewport has partnered with more than two dozen schools, public libraries, and community centers to increase access to advanced technology such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and powerful computer software.

Partner organizations include:

  • Statewide
    • CS4RI
    • RI Department of Education (RIDE)
  • Newport
    • The Met School, Pell Elementary School, Thompson Middle School, Rogers High School, St. Michael’s Country Day School, Newport Community School
    • Catalyzing Newport
    • Health Equity Zone
    • Boys and Girls Club of Newport County
    • Martin Luther King Jr. Center
    • Newport Public Library

Middletown

  • St. George’s, All Saints Academy, St. Philomena
  • Middletown Public Library
  • Portsmouth
    • Portsmouth Free Public Library
  • Jamestown
    • Melrose School, Lawn Avenue School
    • Jamestown Arts Center
  • Barrington
    • Barrington Middle School and High School (Professional development for teachers)
  • East Greenwich
    • Cole Middle School, East Greenwich High School

One of FabNewport’s premier educational partnerships is FabNewport’s role in the Advanced Course Network, an initiative of the Rhode Island Department of Education. The Network enables students to pursue personalized educational pathways by expanding access to Advanced Placement courses and a wider variety of classes. For the first time, students statewide will be able to take Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles and 3D Modeling and Digital Manufacturing courses, both taught by FabNewport in their maker lab.

FabNewport also recently received a $21,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation. This grant will enable FabNewport to teach K-12 teachers how to integrate “making” into their music, Spanish, social studies, and science classrooms, among others.

“Every grant we make underscores our commitment to moving Rhode Island forward. We work closely with our donors and grantees to ensure there are the resources and the resourcefulness to achieve great impact,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

Back in the basement of Thompson Middle School, Shinego has cleared out a former tool room to expand her technology classroom. Out went a table saw, safety goggles, and rulers. Soon, she will move in a new 3D printer and a vinyl cutter. What is harder is letting go of a rigid curriculum. “I was scared that when I took away the control, I wasn’t going to see the same student performance,” Shinego said. “That wasn’t the case.”

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.