Berkeley Preparatory School

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Berkeley Preparatory School
Tampa, FL
School Site:

School Description
Founded in 1960, Berkeley Preparatory School is a PreK – Grade 12 co-educational independent day school located in Tampa, Florida. Berkeley educates the whole child by nurturing students’ intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical development so they may attain their highest potential. Our philosophy encompasses a balanced curriculum of academics and arts, clubs and activities, competitive sports and community service. An emphasis on academic excellence combined with a spirit of social responsibility engenders in students a new found confidence and shared sense of purpose. Students exchange ideas, study virtues and explore ethics as they define their attitudes and values.

A diverse student population brings many cultures together, fostering the sharing of traditions in a safe forum. Through formal study of world religions, daily convocations and the rich and open discussion among peers, students learn to respect their heritage along with the customs of their neighbors. Students are better prepared to embrace this diversity in our global world.

Our graduates are well-rounded individuals who have excelled in the lessons of character and learned the values of discipline, diligence and integrity. They leave Berkeley with open minds to find the future awaits them with open doors.

A busy day during a Friday afternoon OpenLab meeting.
A busy day during a Friday afternoon OpenLab meeting.

Description of Maker Space
In the Middle Division we are in the beginning stages of setting up a makerspace. I currently borrow a classroom from a teacher to use for the work area during the designated OpenLab times, but the materials must be put away into the technology office and a large 50 gallon rolling storage container when we’re not in the time period of OpenLab. We have a 3D printer in another science classroom that students are able to use, and we will soon have a laser cutter to use. I also have a sewing machine and cardboard that I transport to the space or have students help with. It has proven challenging, but it has been a hurdle we’re overcoming. Next year we’ll have a designated space to have our makerspace and meetings so that things don’t have to be unpacked and repacked each period.

Description of Program
Right now we’re in the process of developing the role of OpenLab. At this point I send out a schedule at the beginning of each week and have students sign up for the time in which they’re interested. There are about 60 kids out of 320 that are on our OpenLab email list to receive emails and updates. The meetings include mornings, lunches, and an extracurricular time period called Flex. Students come in and fill out a form expressing their interests, and then they’re given digital resources to peruse to find an interest. They are also able to look at the supplies that we have (sewing maching, littleBits, cardboard, Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, etc.) and find out what interests them. To this point I haven’t required them to focus on projects, but many have found themselves completely engrossed in just one area. We have students using 3D modeling software like 123D Design to create pieces to print and assemble.

As we continue to grow our options at Berkeley in relation to design thinking, we hope to develop programs that will run in the makerspace. We also know that once a specific space is established, there will be potential for teachers to bring classes to work on projects in the makerspace that require use of the materials that we have.

Examples of How the Space is Being Used
Because we don’t really have a space, this is probably the hardest question to answer. Currently kids are building models out of cardboard, designing elements of pieces in 3D modeling software, building small circuits with littleBits, sewing with conductive thread and electronics, building Raspberry Pis, and making other objects. As time progresses (we’re only about a month into existence at this point), I know students will continue to find their interests and build on what has been done so far.

Future Plans
Next year there will be a space for a makerspace as well as a Fabrication Lab. The concept of an open makerspace will be more developed, because the space will be open at all times for making and tinkering activities. Additionally, several elective classes will be developed to use the makerspace with more specific project goals in mind. The OpenLab will exist, but so too will a design thinking elective. We are still in the process of determining the interests of the students in these areas for next year, but we are certain that once the space is available we have students who will be active in programs that use the makerspace.


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