Outdoor Makerspace Harvesting Creativity

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The initial scope of the space includes a greenhouse, 14 raised beds, a large butterfly garden and an outdoor classroom. The initial scope of the space includes a greenhouse, 14 raised beds, a large butterfly garden and an outdoor classroom.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute is taking the makerspace movement outdoors. The school is turning a campus garden into a sustainability makerspace and an outdoor classroom. The idea, the school says, is to ramp up research and teach students of all ages about sustainability concepts and practices.

The initial scope of the space includes a greenhouse, 14 raised beds, a large butterfly garden and an outdoor classroom. However, Program Director Jennifer Mueller Price says there are "all sorts of ideas" for future enhancements, including solar panels to power the ventilation in the greenhouse as well as a water pump for a nearby pond to irrigate the produce and other plants grown at the site. She adds further plans will be largely up to students and faculty.

"We have one student interested in doing some research related to bees next year," says Price, "and so we're hoping to get a beehive out there as well that we can utilize for the student's research as well as having bees to help pollinate in the garden."

The initiative is funded in part by a nearly $10,000 grant from the SIA Foundation. The Lafayette-based organization awards grants twice each year to support community-based education, arts and health programs throughout Indiana.

The project is moving forward quickly. The school says the garden is already functioning, with hopes to get solar power on the greenhouse by the summer. The design of the outdoor classroom is also complete, thanks in part to input from students and interested faculty.

Mueller Price says the space will provide a wide range of opportunities for students to "really see the impact that they can have on the world around them." Future planned projects include harvesting rainwater through onsite water treatment and having renewable energy classes analyze power needs to help develop the solar power system needed.

She says the projects will give students "a systems perspective, a big picture, a more holistic view of their problem solving as being more than just technical pieces, but also thinking of the big picture of how they can impact society or the environment as well."

High school students will also have access to the outdoor makerspace, likely through Rose-Hulman's Operation Catapult program. The academic camp allows high school students to stay in residence halls and work on research projects with faculty.

The garden serves a practical purpose for the Terre Haute school as well. Vegetables from the 14 raised planting beds have been used by students and the school's food service provider, Bon Appetit.

Ultimately, Mueller Price says she hopes the space is a catalyst for students and faculty to be creative and innovative in the research that interests them in a living, growing educational environment.

Mueller Price says the outdoor makerspace can teach students a more well-rounded approach to problem-solving.
Mueller Price says there are opportunities for elementary and middle schools as well.
Mueller Price hopes the space can spark innovation and creativity in students.
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