District Inspired by the Global Maker Movement

Once again, thousands of people of all ages and from all walks of life attended Toms River Regional Schools’ third annual Jersey Shore Makerfest. The event was held on Saturday, October 14, at the district’s event arena and the on grounds and in classrooms at High School North in Toms River, NJ.

The event celebrates a larger phenomenon that has been building worldwide for the last decade. Its application in schools aligns with state standards in careers, technology, science, and engineering and improved understandings of student learning. It is closely related to STEAM, Active Learner, and Problem-Based Learning initiatives many districts have recently begun.

Organizer Marc Natanagara, Assistant Superintendent, has seen the maker movement as an opportunity to make learning more engaging. He has shared recent school initiatives at conferences and at the past two World Maker Faires in New York City, each of which drew over 100,000 attendees.

“The maker mindset is about both individuality and collaboration, and the role of creativity in learning,” said Dr. Natanagara. “Students always rise to the challenge and show they can tackle real world issues if given the chance.”

Makerfest has sparked dozens of partnerships and sponsorships that have helped improve classrooms and programs, and the maker/STEAM mindset has been at the root of the majority of $1.2 million in grants won over the past two years. Makerspaces have been and are being built in each of the district’s 18 schools, most through grants and donations. Three high school Career Academies debuted in September, each with a hands-on technology component. Teachers are creating more interactive, inquiry-based, and problem-oriented lessons. And new tech, coding, and robotics extracurricular programs are in high demand.

"The maker mindset is about both individuality and collaboration, and the role of creativity in learning." - Dr. Marc Natanagara

Co-organizer Tiffany Lucey, who works directly with students and teachers in classrooms and holds frequent professional development sessions, notes, “Student choice and voice are not only essential to personalizing learning, but the feedback we get from students in turn drives many of our goals.”

Over the past three years, the Jersey Shore Makerfest has attracted over 200 big and small name innovators including Apple, Barnes and Noble, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Future Ready Schools, Home Depot, Maker Depot, Microsoft, Tuckerton Seaport, the NJ School Boards Association and the NJ Department of Education, as well as school districts from across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Attendees have had the opportunity to experience the maker revolution in its many forms, from high tech drones, coding, 3D printing, and circuit-building, to more traditional knitting, bonsai cuting, and cooking. Art met science as robots took over a space of their own in the school gym and Mike “Spindorato” Indorato, an interactive performance artist, served as a live arena centerpiece.

Toms River’s Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation returned for its third year as a key supporter and platinum sponsor, helping make the occasion free for attendees and participants alike. Makerfest 2017 was able to expand to include the first Jersey Shore Hackathon and the Toms River Green Fair. The district worked even more closely with the town Business Improvement District and Chamber of Commerce to highlight innovators, artists, and supporters in the Toms River and Ocean County area.

According to District Superintendent David Healy, “Makerfest represents the merging of our schools with a larger community. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to work together and network to build long term relationships.”

For more information, go to http://jerseyshoremakerfest.org

Interactive event
A young girl uses a touch pad to operate a Sphero during Makerfest 3.0.

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The catapult game was a popular attraction for young kids at Makerfest.

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