“Teaching By Tinkering” takes off in Lowell…catalyzing innovation in public education

The gymnasium was buzzing with the sounds of conversation and laughter as teachers proudly showed off their creations to their peers. Across a series of tables, dozens of “hacked” toys were on display: stuffed animals sported new flashing lights in their ears or bellies, and plastic flowers glowed with LEDs powered through miniature circuits.

At this professional development workshop, more than 50 teachers from the Joseph G. Pyne Arts Magnet School (Lowell Public Schools district) spent an afternoon with AceraEI staff for a lesson in hacking toys, an activity that combines the parts of an electronic toy with a non-tech toy in order to make something new. The goal? To bring hands-on, creative, and STEAM-infused curriculum to thousands of Lowell kids.

This workshop was just one in a series taking place during AceraEI’s multi-year partnership between the Pyne Arts School and the Lowell Public Schools District to unlock creativity, student initiative, and STEAM capacity in Lowell. Year One of this partnership was funded through a generous anonymous donor.

AceraEI’s maker space lesson plans merge STEM concepts like chemistry, circuitry, and programming with arts and crafts activities. A hallmark of this activity is its use of low-cost tools and materials to help students bring their ideas to life through creative making and design, something that appeals to budget-conscious school districts.

Featuring curricula like Enchanted Electronics, Choreography of Matter, and Designing for Health, AceraEI’s Maker Space curriculum is gaining momentum as a professional development series, as well as a novel approach to engaging more girls in STEM. In addition to leading several workshops with Lowell teachers, AceraEI has brought maker education units to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Learning and the Brain conferences, as well as to 140 girls in Boston Public School through the American Heart Association’s STEM Goes Red Boston event.

I love science and am excited about learning new ways to infuse these hands-on lessons into our classes. I look forward to our next session of learning.  Thank you!” – Lori Lang, Pyne Arts faculty