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Hands-on learning program ‘great experience for everyone’ at Westwood Hills Elementary

Westwood Hills students presented and demonstrated their innovative projects at their Design Lab Showcase on May 17, 2024. Photo courtesy of Waynesboro Schools.

Westwood Hills Elementary is thrilled to announce the successful launch of the Building Brighter Bulldogs Makerspace Program, a groundbreaking initiative focused on the engineering and design process for students in 3rd to 5th grades.

The pilot program planned by the Westwood Hills Extended School Year (ESY) committee aims to foster creativity, critical thinking and
hands-on learning.

With the leadership of Amanda Hall, the ESY committee chair and committee members Melissa Paul, Destiny Francisco, Somer Stone, Beth Lint and Kristie Chandler, the Building Brighter Bulldogs Makerspace Program offered students the opportunity to explore:
● Pottery using potter’s wheels
● Aerial photography and videography using drones
● 3D printing
● Sewing
● Stop-motion video
● Cricut vinyl cutting

“The Westwood ESY committee has been planning this program since October. We originally had the broad idea of creating a Makerspace at Westwood, and it has evolved into this amazing program, putting materials in students’ hands and teaching them real life skills,” Hall, Westwood Hills Librarian and ESY Committee Chair, said.

Thirty-seven students participated in the program for nine sessions. Twelve staff members helped facilitate the six Makerspace stations, each guiding six to seven students through their chosen specialty.

According to Westwood Hills Principal Dr. Greg Harris, “this program has been amazing for our students. They have been able to show their creativity and really dig into the design and engineering process, learning that failure is okay, and is part of the learning process. Many of the teachers facilitating the stations are learning right alongside the students, which is a great experience for everyone.”

To conclude the Spring 2024 Makerspace, a week of summer programming is planned which will allow students to explore design and engineering in real world contexts through trips to:
● Funky’s Skate Park: Investigating the design and engineering of skates, rollerblades and the
roller rink
● Valley Jump Park: Exploring the engineering of various trampolines, the ninja course and the
foam jump pit.
● Monticello: Learning about early American design and engineering through Thomas
Jefferson’s inventions.
● Washington, D. C: Examining the design and engineering of national monuments and the
Smithsonian Museums of American and Natural History.

Given the success of this pilot year, Westwood Hills plans to continue and expand the program.

“We had an overwhelming response to our Building Brighter Bulldogs program this spring. We are looking forward to expanding this program next year and offering it to more students,” Hall said.

Westwood Hills is one of four elementary schools in the Waynesboro Schools system.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.