Friends School of Baltimore

Friends seal paths

Friends School of Baltimore
Baltimore, MD

School Description
Founded in 1784, Friends School of Baltimore provides a coeducational, college preparatory program guided by the Quaker values of truth, equality, simplicity, community and peaceful resolution of conflict. By setting high standards of excellence for a diverse and caring community, Friends seeks to develop in each student the spiritual, intellectual, physical and creative strengths to make a positive contribution to the world. Recognizing that there is that of God in each person, the School strives in all its programs, policies and affairs to be an institution that exemplifies the ideals of the Religious Society of Friends. At Friends, we work together to build and sustain a community that is inclusive, respectful, and supportive of all people; we value diversity and cherish differences. Dedication to simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship permeates every aspect of Friends School life. Regular Meeting for Worship strengthens and deepens our commitment to these Quaker testimonies. Active practice of these principles nurtures empathy and fosters a sense of responsibility to the needs of others. Structured opportunities for service help students live the Quaker testimonies at school and in the broader community. Friends is a coeducational college preparatory school offering a Pre-K to 12 program comprised of 855 students, that promotes in each student internal motivation, diligence, a passion for learning, and a strong desire to excel. The school is therefore most effective for students who can thrive in an enriched and challenging environment. Friends School cultivates the intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, and spiritual development of the students. Our program balances academics, athletics, and the arts. Quaker education is a pilgrimage–a continual seeking after Truth. The search for truth requires a willingness to listen openly to the ideas of others, even in fields of controversy. Friends School believes that through self-awareness, growth, and service to others, that of God in each person is made manifest.

Overhead view of space
Overhead view of space

Description of Maker Space
The space in which we currently house our maker space, informally named the “innovation lab,” has a checkered past at the school. At various times in the school’s history it has served as a computer lab, gymnasium, wrestling room, temporary classroom space, student newspaper editorial offices, book depository, and furniture storage warehouse. It occupies the lower level of the Upper School library and in fact, is the basement, subterranean level of the Upper School. The two-story room is spacious, open, and has a mezzanine level that serves as an ad hoc observation deck where reference shelves of library books currently are kept. The space has a fluidity and interchangeability to it; the tables, stools, shelves, tools, are not in fixed locations but can be rearranged to suit the needs of the activity. The space is organized roughly into “studios” comprised of a Robotics practice field and workshop, a Vespa scooter atelier, and classroom space for Sculpture, Automotive Physics, and other electives. The central area has large movable tables with stools of varying heights. We have re-purposed old, cast off furniture and shelving from the school’s surplus. Very few, if any items in the space were purchased new. The Robotics field is movable/storable and includes an ingenious wooden “envelope” storage unit that was designed and built by students in the Robotics club. There are racks of shelving for storage of raw materials and tools. The room is outfitted with a wireless projector, whiteboards, and 3-D printer (coming soon!)

Description of Program
The Friends School Maker Space is defined by its fluidity and interchangeability. The functionality of the space is intentionally not set or fixed. It is not a wood shop, garage, science lab, nor art studio but rather, it is ALL of those things. The space is a physical manifestation of the school’s Teaching and Learning Paradigm which is the pedagogical and curricular framework for the school. The 3 spheres of this paradigm, Knowledge, Skills, and Habits of Mind, work interchangeably in the design and delivery of the learning experiences at all levels of the school. Curiosity, Creativity, Empathy, Reflection, and Resilience are the foundational habits of mind of the Teaching and Learning Paradigm and are among the habits that students cultivate and develop in our Maker Space. Previous all-faculty summer reads also inspired the building and design of the space and the programs and activities that happen there. Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner emphasize the crucial importance of learning by doing, “tinkering,” designing, building, modeling, experimenting, playing as experiences that help young people foster and deepen their creativity. The Maker Space is also not “owned” by any single teacher or department. There is an egalitarian, “open-to-all” atmosphere to the space: students are free to work on projects during free periods and before/after school or on weekends. For example, It is not uncommon for the space to be humming with boisterous and exuberant activity on a Friday night with Robotics team members prepping for their upcoming qualifying tournament.

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Examples of How the Space is Being Used
There are several Upper School courses and clubs that meet in the space. Students and teachers of Sculpture, Automotive Physics, Motion (Kinetic Sculpture), Vespa Restoration Club, and Robotics Club are the primary users of the space.

Future Plans
Our forays into creating a maker space have been organic and evolving. The design of the space and the activities which happen there have not been directed by any one person, department, or administrator. Similarly, the space has no capitalized budget or funding source. Rather, it has continued to grow and expand through the passion and interest of several members of the faculty.

Among our many ideas and plans for the future of this space and its uses are:

  • Open studio hours for students
  • Accessibility and use by students/teachers in the Lower and Middle Schools
  • Interdisciplinary projects
  • A community materials cabinet for club activities
  • Additional receptacles, coiled power extensions from the ceiling
  • Additional lighting with capability for different “plots” and moods
  • Improved ventilation (for soldering, small metals, fume hood for jewelry design)
  • Repositional ceiling mounting mechanism for hanging or displaying tools and projects
  • Additional display/gallery capability
  • Glass wall on the mezzanine to protect the library books from dust, etc.

Possible projects/courses/clubs and activities in the space might include:

  • Cardboard construction
  • Prototyping
  • Woodworking
  • Metalworking
  • Electronics
  • Robotics
  • 3-D Digital fabrication
  • Building motorized bicycles and kinetic machines
  • Textiles and sewing
  • Ceramics

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