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Thinkering Tank Flexes STEM Skills

The multi-purpose room on the Upper, formerly known as the Flex Room, has been converted this fall to the “Thinkering Tank,” Sequoyah’s version of a “makerspace,” or a general-purpose workshop for building and engineering.  Starting with an options class this fall and winter, Jean-Philippe Fontaine, Sequoyah’s educational technology coordinator, is leading an effort to use the space to interest students in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

In the Thinkering Tank, students will be able to solder, code, woodwork, sew, build with cardboard and styrofoam, make arts and crafts, make stop-motion animation videos, tinker with electronics, and use audio/video production equipment. 

The space is currently in the early-adoption stage, said Fontaine, during which “any kids or classes who are interested are going to start using things, understanding them, and those people will then be able to help support teachers and fellow classmates.” 

Currently, Fontaine is teaching students how to use the equipment himself. Fontaine said that “as faculty understand using [the equipment] more, you’ll have a bunch of different people using it.” Fontaine added, “Eventually, we will have more machines–mostly more of what we have now.”

According to Fontaine, the Tank is not fully open yet “because we’re still learning how the stuff works. And we’re still trying to figure out the model for it.” 

Teachers will be able to reserve the space to be used during class time, just as they can now book Chromebooks online. 

Alternatively, teachers could reserve Thinkering Tank equipment and supplies for use in their classrooms. 

Fontaine hopes that the space will be regarded as a “community space, not just for the students who take the options class, or for students in the Over There, Out Back, and Junior High.”

Although the name for the space changed from the Flex Room to the Thinkering Tank, Fontaine says that “it is still a flexible space and available for curricular projects.”

The idea for the Thinkering Tank is neither new, said Fontaine, nor unique to Sequoyah. “[It’s] something that the majority of schools across the country are moving to; this model of collaborative project based learning that explores and opens up ways for students to be innovative and creative.”

The Thinkering Tank Committee, which has been discussing how the space will be used, is made up of staff whose classes or other priorities lend themselves most obviously to use of the space. 

Members include lead teachers Renee Brody and Art Phiffer, specialists Leila Gonzalez, Donna Youngstrom, Laurie Nye and Erin Trefry, and administrators Josh Brody, Elena Phleger, and Eileen Lee, as well as various parents and alumni. The committee’s co-chairs are Curriculum Director Emily Singer and Fontaine.