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M. Ann Levett, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Savannah-Chatham Co.
Public School System

208 Bull Street
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 395-5600


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208 Bull Street
(Admin. Offices)

2 Laura Avenue
(Board Meetings)

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SCCPSS > Divisions > Communications > Community Partner Spotlight > Categories
Meet STEPHEN ROUTH - Makerspace Innovator!

Imagine as a middle-school student, taking a class where your primary mission is planning how to inhabit another planet!  You and your fellow classmates will experiment in various ways to grow and sustain a viable food source, construct communication systems, and develop inter-stellar transportation options.  Sounds more like something from NASA’s Planetary Science Division, but it’s all a part of the innovative educational practices that are happening right here in Savannah-Chatham Public Schools!  Welcome to Stephen Routh’s Maker Class!

 

   

 

After the STEM academy’s first year in operation, the staff worked to bring the content alive through a schoolwide storyline that would evolve with a student over their 3-year middle school experience. In 6th grade, students spend their time learning all about what humans need to inhabit planet earth (Earth Science).  In 7th grade, the planet becomes uninhabitable and students are challenged to figure out what conditions they’ll need to live on another planet (Life Science).  By the time they are in 8th grade, the students will be designing a rocket to take them to the stars (Physical Science).

 

A “Makerspace” looks something like an engineer’s handy-space and they are popping up in classrooms all over the country. These learning environments are animated by the “what happens if” mindset of scientists, the creative spirit of artists, and the formulas and codes of tech geeks.  Above all else, these creative common spaces reflect the way people are showing innovation and problem-solving in today’s modern world.

 

Thanks to our SCCPSS Innovative Educator, Stephen Routh, students in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System are getting a unique instructional experience that combines technology with project based learning in a way that develops powerful problem solving skills.

 

                   

 

We recently caught up with Stephen to learn more: 

 

Why did you choose teaching as a profession?

 

It took me about 40 years to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I worked as a subcontractor for Southern California Edison, in construction, specialized in wooden boat construction for museums, worked in restaurants. Most of that was geared around engineering. That’s what makes this (The Maker Class) a good fit for me. Everything I’ve ever done has kind of prepared me to teach this class at this school.

 

What is a Makerspace and what do you do here?

 

Makerspace is all about taking concepts that are abstract and applying those concepts in the classroom.  I try to tie it in with the curriculum students experience in their other classes. Based on that, we build things. Anything from electronics-based to wood-based, we’ve done clay this year with pottery, since they were studying minerals and rocks in 6th grade. A little bit of anything you can image when it comes to making things.

 

What specific things have your students made this year?

 

Right now, they are building models of plate tectonics boundaries to tie in with their earth science class. With the 7th grade kids, we’ve done hydroponic units and built compost bins. We’ve built communicators to communicate with a new species of plant that was discovered on a fictional planet that’s tied into the Nevermore story line that we’re doing throughout the school. The 8th graders built catapults to tie into what they’re doing in physical science. Right now, 7th and 8th graders are doing electronics with arduino microcontrollers. The 7th graders are building devices that, when something steps on a pressure plate, it sounds a warning. The 8th graders are working on two projects. One is a laser trip wire that sounds an alarm. The other is a temperature sensor, that when the temperature goes above a certain degree, it sets off an alarm.

 

Do these things actually work? 

 

Yes. They work. They create a prototype, then we have working prototypes when we’re done.

 

I’m guessing there's a lot of trial and error and failure.

 

Absolutely.

 

How do you handle that?

 

That’s all built into it. Anytime they work on these projects, there is learning that goes on in the beginning. Which, I try not to go overboard with. I want students to have time to explore on their own. So I give them the basics. Then they have enough time built into their project that they're able to build something, try it out, then, OK, it doesn’t work. We need to go back and redo it. So that’s a big thing for me. It’s all about failures. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to truly get them to understand why things work the way they do, particularly when you are working with arduinos and coding. They could just copy and paste code and make something work, but that’s not what it’s about.

 

What do you like best about this class?

 

It was a club one day a week, but based on what we believe, what needs to happen in education, we decided it needed to be more than just a club; it needed to be an actual class. Every day is a little bit of an experiment.  I’m learning a lot and changing things as I go. It was a struggle at first because obviously there is no standard curriculum and we work very hard to tie our learning experiences to other curriculums in a way that carried high rigor and relevance.

 

What keeps you motivated?

 

For me, I think it’s when the kids actually are able to make that connection, “Oh this makes sense now with what we were learning in science class.”  Or, when they actually pull something off they’ve been working on for a week and a half - something they’ve been working on where they couldn’t get it to work and now it actually works. It’s about the feedback I get from them when that happens.

 

Are you a techie?

 

I consider myself a maker. I’m a tinkerer. I pull things apart, figure out how they work, put them back together. I was always trying to get the newest gadget that was out.

 

So, you’re curious?

 

Yes. I’m a lifelong learner.

 

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?

 

Don’t be afraid to try things that are new or different.  Don’t be afraid if they’re not working to stop and say, “Hey, this isn’t working, we need to try something else."

MEET MELISSA MAIKOS - Beach High School

MEET MELISSA MAIKOS - Beach High School

When many people think of teaching in the classroom, images of chalkboards, erasers and pencils come to mind. But if you haven’t visited a classroom lately, what you would find might just surprise you. Chatham County teachers have made new strides with innovative instructional practices that leverage technology to reach students and inspire learning.

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System has always encouraged teachers to be innovative with instructional strategies and best practices that bring teaching to life. Technology enhances instruction with tools like Interactive Whiteboards, Student Response Systems, and Mobile Learning Devices. A teacher at Beach High School is stepping up to meet this challenge and has never missed the opportunity to utilize a variety of tools as a way to enhance instructional delivery.

Melissa Maikos is dedicated to the daily challenge of finding new methods that engage and connect with students. She bridges the gap between technology and learning by making her classroom interactive. From using computers to presenting her lessons using an iPad, she gives students a chance to work with tools that are often available to them 24 hours a day – making the window for learning available anytime and anywhere.

“I grew up where the primary method of teaching was with the paper and pencil, and now when a student tells me I don’t have paper and pencil, it’s ok. I give them a computer,” explained Maikos. “I’m constantly looking for what to put in a new app or how I can put new information online, so the students can have access to it. How they receive it is up to them, but I want to give them that option.”

However, it’s her work with a new application called Aurasma that puts her at the top of educational innovation. Maikos is passionate about the Aurasma application because it captures the attention of her students.

“Aurasma is unique in that it gives that extra engaging factor for the simple fact that kids haven’t seen anything like it and they can use their phones,” Maikos said. “Plus, it’s pretty ‘cool.’ I use it in the classroom for easy access to the lessons or materials.”

 

For example, during an American literature lesson, Maikos recorded the class discussing character analysis in the assigned novel. Then she edited the video and connected it to a trigger image. Using the Aurasma app, students could easily scan the trigger image and immediately have access to the video discussion to review.

“If a student is absent, they can use their phone or tablet to scan the trigger image for video lessons they may have missed,” Maikos said. “They can scan pictures around the room, and the pictures come to life with information pertaining to what we’ve learned.”

Students aren’t limited to using the app in class. As long as they have the trigger image, they can access the interactive material from anywhere. Maikos implements trigger images for the Aurasma application in her science and English curriculum. She also uses the technology for bulletin boards, like the teacher of the month board. Students, faculty, and staff can scan the trigger image to immediately see a video of that teacher in action in the classroom.

“It brings the lesson the life,” she said. “The kids are blown away by it. It’s visual and moving images, almost like watching a highlight reel. It adds an element to the lesson that keeps it fresh.”

By combining the Aurasma interactive technology with traditional textbook instruction, Maikos is able to provide a classroom environment rich in differentiated instruction.

The administration at Beach High School is in full support of teachers using technology in the classroom. Principal Derrick Muhammad has seen the way students react to the use of technology. He makes sure teachers like Maikos have the resources needed to satisfy their students’ needs.

While adults might have a learning curve transitioning from traditional pen-and-paper, students are thriving with digital instruction. “I like that Mrs. Maikos is not afraid of trying new technology in the classroom,” Muhammad said. “An innovative approach to teaching and learning will always be one of the most beneficial aspects an educator can have.”

Maikos’ connection with the students is what drives her to work hard in order to provide a valuable education for students in the 21st century. She wants to make sure students are equipped with the knowledge it takes to navigate an ever-changing world. “For me, innovation is all about finding creative ways for building relationships with your students,” Maikos said. “It’s a way to relate to them. If you’re able to meet them in the middle, then it shows them that you care.” 

Teacher Spotlight - Sarah Lucas

In a series of educator profiles, SCCPSS will showcase talented teachers from across the district who are using innovative teaching practices that bring learning to life!

Sarah Lucas is a third grade teacher at Georgetown K-8 School and she’s having a great impact on students with teaching that is full of energy, hands-on, and filled with innovative instructional practices. 

Ms. Lucas is a winner recognized by Governor Nathan Deal in the Innovation in Teaching Competition, a recognition and reward opportunity for teachers available through Georgia’s Innovation Fund which is a competitive grant program created through Georgia’s Race to the Top plan.  

         

Her classroom practices have drawn the attention of the Governor’s Office and the school recently received a visit from the First-Lady of Georgia Sandra Deal. 

The Georgia Department of Education caught up with Ms. Lucas for a Teacher Spotlight to showcase positive educational strategies that that are making a difference right here in Chatham County.

Teacher Spotlight: Sarah Lucas of Georgetown K-8 School

About this feature: The 100,000+ classroom teachers in Georgia’s public schools are on the front lines of education. They’re nurturing dreams and showing children what’s possible. And they’re making sure students have the tools they need to make those dreams a reality. Teacher Spotlights, a recurring feature from the Georgia Department of Education, introduces you to those educators.

In this edition of Teacher Spotlights, meet Sarah Lucas. She’s a third grade teacher at Georgetown K-8 School in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, and a project on ocean pollution she created for her students led to her being named a recipient of the Governor’s Innovation in Teaching Award. We talked with her about innovative instruction, project-based learning, moments of inspiration and the passion that makes learning fun.

Read the full article on the Georgia Department of Education’s Website: TEACHER SPOTLIGHT