Philly school’s old library reborn as STEM-centered ‘Makerspace’

Philly school’s old library reborn as STEM-centered ‘Makerspace’

Kids don’t learn in the same ways they used to, and to catch up with the times, C.C.A. Baldi Middle School got updated on Tuesday with a brand-new STEM-focused “Makerspace,” thanks to school staff, a sponsorship from AbbVie pharmaceuticals and the Heart of America Foundation.

The school’s old Information and Media Center was formerly a lending library, but over the years fell out of use, said Gloria Chernyakhovsky, known to students as Ms. Cherny. She attended Baldi as a student in the ’90s and recently returned as the school’s Media Arts and Technology Specialist and Technology Teacher Leader.

“The IMC was a place we’d go and get library books and take them out, and we had classes there,” Cherny recalled. “When I came here to work here two years ago, it was just a dead space. It was almost like a storage locker.”

Now the Makerspace will be a STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) classroom, serving Baldi’s 1,433 11- to 14-year-old middle-schoolers with 3-D printers, iPads, and an advanced materials cutting device. Some 100 AbbVie staff volunteered on Tuesday to renovate and redesign the Makerspace with the new gear, paint murals and beautify other areas of the school.

The new gear is adapted to today’s kids’ educational interests, Cherny said.

“They are all about designing. They want to design apps for phone, they want to do animation and edit film. They’re interested in branding, doing logo design and designing T-shirts and things like that. … These kids need to be in touch with all sorts of different technologies.”

Globally, 8,000 employees with AbbVie, a global pharmaceutical company, volunteered around the nation this week to help develop educational opportunities for underserved communities.

“AbbVie is committed to addressing challenges facing the underserved — especially in education — through charitable giving as well as employee engagement,” said AbbVie VP for US Specialty John Duffey, who spent the day working at C.C.A. Baldi on the renovations.

“We are so grateful to AbbVie, Heart of America and the School District of Philadelphia for creating this innovative, beautiful and exciting environment for our students,” said Baldi principal Luke Hostetter in a statement. “Baldi is the largest neighborhood Middle school in Philadelphia and we are always exploring creative ways to engage our students and prepare them for college and career readiness. This new space has the technology and tools that will allow our students to apply their learning math, science and technology classes to creation.”

Baldi previously got a WHYY grant for film equipment and computers that will also be available in the Makerspace, but all the new tech and design installed on June 19 will change students’ experiences come September, predicted Cherny, who will be teaching in the new classroom along with STEM teacher Angelique Frazier.

“They can be creative in that space,” she said. “That’s why I believe the Makerspace is great, they’re going to have so many different options and ways of making things.”