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West Sedona School is revamping its library to include a 2,000-squarefoot “makerspace”: A collaborative space for students with lab stations focused on developing science, technology, engineering and math skills. 

The school’s ambitious master plan for its makerspace, spearheaded by Principal Scott Keller and the school’s STEM leadership team, includes eight stations, from a 3-D printer station to a miniature derby track, and a host of ideas for the future. 

“I want it to be a place where kids walk in and say, ‘I want to do that,’” Keller said. “I want it to inspire kids to learn how to do something.” 

The idea came from the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, which partners with the school to bring hands-on learning to the classrooms. The center brought its mobile makerspace to West Sedona last school year, and when Keller saw how involved and active the students were, he wanted to create a similar, permanent space the school could call its own. 

“We’ve got to do this,” Keller said. “We’ve got to do something to change how kids want to learn. They already want to learn differently — how are we meeting those needs?”

West Sedona’s makerspace will be in the section of the library that formerly held its secondary computer lab and junior high books selection. 

While the computers have been moved into a new space for the secondary lab, the junior high library section still needs to be moved to the main library before West Sedona can transform the space in earnest. 

It’s not as simple as just moving books, though; the school needs specific library shelves that will hold up to safety standards, withstanding the books’ weight and any abuse from the kids. 

Buying new shelves will cost $24,000 — money West Sedona doesn’t have. Keller said he’s looking into whether any community libraries have old shelves they are willing to donate. Keller said it’s a frustrating roadblock, but he’s hopeful it will come together before school starts.

Even if they aren’t able to remove the shelves lining the makerspace’s walls, they’ll still set up tables in other parts of the room. 

The school has the materials and can complete four of the eight proposed stations by August: The Lego wall, 3-D printers, Lego robotics and the drawing center. For the rest, and to bolster the materials they already have, West Sedona has drawn up a makerspace plan asking for $100,000. This includes $12,500 in construction and permitting costs, $35,000 in equipment, the aforementioned $24,000 for new library bookshelves, and additional ongoing costs for new materials and salary for a future media specialist to supervise the makerspace.

No donors have come forward yet, but in the meantime, volunteers are lending their materials and expertise to West Sedona’s efforts. Architect Simone Mussa drew up a conceptual plan for the makerspace, and former West Sedona parent Dan Surber has offered to help with construction needs.

Teachers are ready to make use of the stations that will be set up, including Barbra Robles, a sixth-grade teacher and Lego robotics coach at West Sedona. This year, her sixth-grade students will spend time working on Egypt projects encompassing several learning subjects such as social studies and math. 

For their social studies project, Robles said, students will get the opportunity to make 3-D models and use them in their presentation. 

“The 3-D printers are a huge aspect of it,” Robles said. “It’ll allow students to express learning in different ways.”

From light boards to water tables, Robles said the makerspace has the potential to grow to meet teachers’ needs and imaginations. 

“It’ll constantly be changing and evolving as we go,” she said. “We’ll have to think outside the box to use some of this.” 

But giving students the opportunity to get their hands on and tinker with technology like the Lego robots and 3-D printers could spark an interest that evolves into a lifelong passion.

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