Support Making at the Environmental Charter School

Nick Tutolo working with a student at the Environmental Charter School.

Nick Tutolo working with a student at the Environmental Charter School.

Help us work with more schools! Six Pittsburgh-area schools need to meet their fundraising goals on Kickstarter by Monday, November 2, in order to create their own makerspaces and partner with Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The Kickstarting Making program, a collaboration between the Children’s Museum and Kickstarter, encompasses 10 schools that want to integrate making, or hands-on learning with old and new technologies.  Each of the 10 schools that  meets their goal will receive professional development from the Children’s Museum, design services that provide furniture plans and inventories for custom makerspaces, as well as equipment, supplies and furniture, all in the spirit of MAKESHOP.

Four schools have met their goals so far, so this week we are featuring an educator from each of the six schools still fundraising.  You can learn about all of the Kickstarting Making Programs, and add your support to the campaigns, at www.kickstarter.com/pages/pghkidsmake.  

Read on to learn about one of the educators from a Kickstarting Making schools:

Environmental Charter School

Food Justice for Pittsburgh: Math Class Becomes a Makerspace

The Environmental Charter school is seeking to implement ethical making practices by challenging students to explore food justice, the equitable growing, processing, and distribution of food, and use mathematical concepts to prototype and propose solutions. They are eager to learn more about integrating making as a learning practice.

What is your role and how long have you been with the school?

Nick Tutolo. I have been a Middle School Math Educator at ECS for 4 years.

How do you define making and why do you think it’s an important instructional strategy? 

Making is a way for me to flex my curiosity and creativity muscles. I love to explore how things work and mindfully observe and think about complexity. Tackling problems while using out-of-the-box thinking and makeshift materials brings about great joy and a sense of pride and accomplishment in the final outcome. That is the very reason that making is something that is not only a joyful practice but also a timeless art.  

How will the campaign provide you with the support you need to integrate making at your school?

I have incorporated making as the driver for learning while using math as the language to operate and understand the world around us. Funds from the campaign will allow myself and my colleagues to redesign our classrooms for more collaborative learning and purchase the tools and materials we need in order to facilitate more learning experiences that utilize making to tackle known injustices, such as food insecurity. The funds will also provide opportunities for our students to visit organizations and experts beyond the classroom.

How will integrating making benefit you?  

Implementing making has caused me to be truly excited about the work that I do as an educator.  But as I have often said it is not about me. I am excited because the students are more driven to think deeply to understand not only math, but also the world around them. It has allowed me to reach more students by giving students of all different abilities the chance to show their true brilliance.  

How will integrating making benefit your students?

Before I started using making as a driver for learning I would explain to my students where the information applied to their lives a hundred times and never get my point across. By incorporating making into the classroom that question is a thing of the past. Students don’t need to ask why they need to learn a particular math concept because everything that we are doing is directly tied back to what we are creating in class. Students who have never been engaged in their own learning and have historically struggled with math are now stepping up to the plate. No matter where your skills lie there is something personal about making that allows students the chance to use their strengths in creative ways.

View the Environmental Charter School’s campaign and make a contribution here. You can learn more about Nick on his blog

Rebecca has been a MAKESHOP intern, educator, Teaching Artist and Manager. She's also been a graphic designer, costume shop manager, shoe salesperson, and hair stand-in for Fabio.

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