With UniSource’s support, students at a Prescott elementary school are designing and building structures in a new “Makerspace” lab that helps them prepare for college and the technical careers of tomorrow.

Beginning this year, all 560 of the fifth and sixth grade students at Granite Mountain School will spend two of their school days each week designing, exploring, learning and building projects in the library’s Makerspace lab.

Other campuses within the school district have Makerspace labs, but the one at Granite Mountain School will be the only one located in the library so that all students can participate.

“Students will use their creativity and multi-disciplinary skills to build Snap Circuits, study circuitry, deconstruct old electronics and explore their inner workings or make structures with Legos,” said Tami Phillips, Executive Director of the Prescott Unified School District Educational Foundation (PUSDEF). “Some of our students who struggle in a traditional academic classroom environment often excel in a hands-on, exploratory learning setting. It’s not just desk work in a typical classroom setting.”

The pilot program encourages students to use their imagination while learning about science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, a group of subjects sometimes referred to as STEAM. Interdisciplinary STEAM programs have been shown to promote independent thinking and creativity, and develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

The school is the first in Arizona to have a STEAM-accredited campus and one of 140 schools in the country to be certified in AdvancedED Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

UniSource’s corporate gift of $5,000 will fund the building materials and supplies needed to kick off the program this month. Supplies available to students for their projects include Lego® sets, wood planks, Snap Circuits, Origami paper, hand tools and hardware – such as pulleys, nuts, and bolts – as well as other craft and building supplies.

Phillips said UniSource’s gift is appreciated because funding innovative programs such as the Makerspace lab is challenging in a rural area.

“Not only is state funding lower due to decreased enrollment, but the opportunity to secure additional resources is also significantly diminished due to a limited number of diverse employers, private foundations and donors in a metropolitan region,” Phillips explained.  “UniSource recognizes that in communities like Prescott, every student will need to compete in a global economy. Their support benefits students and assists in recruiting and keeping qualified educators.”

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