How Cabot School District Boosted STEM Learning Outcomes with the Demco Maker Collection
When Stephanie Lisk, a library media specialist at Cabot Middle School South in Arkansas, first acquired the Demco Maker Collection with Challenge Guide as part of a district-wide focus on STEM learning, her goal was to provide innovative hands-on learning opportunities that would capture student interest.
Lisk decided to introduce the collection to her students by first allowing them to investigate the materials on their own. From the beginning, she noticed that the collection stirred excitement in her students. “They were excited about the variety of materials and motivated to explore,” Lisk said.
As she began using the activities in the challenge guide, Lisk continued to be encouraged by the student-driven learning she observed. Students were eagerly participating without any additional encouragement needed.
“Kids are highly engaged, on task, and collaborating in ways I could not have predicted,” she shared. “The challenges really increase the level of learning outcomes by encouraging students to think, design, and evaluate ideas to create solutions to given tasks.”
All-in-One STEM Learning Solution
Cabot School District had been looking for a solution to support their STEM learning initiative in makerspaces across the district when they discovered the Maker Collection with Challenge Guide. A curated collection of maker tools and supplies designed for grades 3–7, the collection comes with 23 hands-on, leveled challenges that are adaptable by skill level. Challenges are divided into three categories: low-tech making, robotics, and energy & power.
As students work through three increasingly challenging levels, they progress from instructor-led exploration to inventing their own solutions, reflecting on what they’ve learned and building valuable 21st century skills along the way.
According to Technology Director Andy Martin, the Maker Collection was an attractive solution because it not only provides engaging, student-driven learning opportunities, but it does so in a way that allows the library media specialists and students to jump right into learning and making, instead of spending a lot of precious time on prep work.
The Maker Collection in Action
Melissa Bulice, a library media specialist at Central Elementary, was the first to use the collection with her students. She decided to start with the low-tech tools. “They absolutely love the building materials; their favorite is Makedo™,” she shared. “When I put this station out, the students were so excited to build with cardboard. They could build for hours!”
Bulice appreciated the included challenge guide as she moved on to using the more high-tech tools included in the collection. “The guide makes it easy to set up lessons by grade level or by high-, medium-, and low-level activities within one class,” she said, noting that the activities cover many science and engineering concepts. “This guide will definitely change how I set up my STEM stations!”
Rave Reviews from Parents and Students
After an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Bulice, Martin decided to purchase 10 more Maker Collections to use in elementary and middle schools throughout the district. Library media specialists aren’t the only ones who have been happy about the outcomes.
“The response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive,” shared Lisk. After talking to a parent who dropped by the library to see the Snap Circuits® because she wanted to buy a set for her daughter, “I fully realized the impact the Maker Collection was having on student engagement and learning.”
And students have not been shy about expressing their excitement over using the tools in the collection.
Sixth-grader Luis loves meeperBOTs “because the way they are coded is fun, and they make their own measurements, which are easy to understand.”
Another student, fifth-grader Aida, enjoys using Dash and Dot robots because “they help with coding skills, and you can interact with other people while using them.” She also loves Strictly Briks®. “There are infinite ways to create with them. They really get me thinking.”
Positive STEM Learning Outcomes
The enthusiastic response from students has been exactly what Cabot educators were hoping for.
“Students are having fun and learning without realizing they are completing difficult tasks,” Lisk said, noting that behavior has also improved since she started using the Maker Collection. “When students are highly engaged, it decreases off-task behaviors, as students are intrinsically motivated to participate in the learning process.”
Bulice agrees, adding that the level of engagement also makes it interesting for her as an educator. “It’s fun listening to the students get excited about learning and listening to them teach each other new skills.”