PENDLETON — As science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching is becoming a larger part of the educational agenda statewide, school leaders in Indiana are adapting, offering new learning environments for students.

This year, educators in the South Madison Community School Corp. are offering elementary students educational time in newly designed areas called makerspaces — areas where students are free to tinker, explore and create — inside school libraries.

Media specialists Erika Matthews at Pendleton Elementary School and Jessica Zepik at East Elementary School visited Delphi Elementary School last year to see its library’s makerspace areas and gather ideas.

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South Madison district school media specialists had a meeting with building principals to discuss the vision and share ideas before finalizing plans for this year.

“It’s definitely not a traditional library setting,” Zepik said.

When the media specialist first told teachers about the makerspace potential for libraries, several of them had concerns about the focus being taken away from books and literature. But, all educators agreed books are still the main focus during library classes.

The designated spaces are open to students and their teachers and can have a variety of equipment, from 3-D printers to things as simple as cardboard, Lego blocks and art supplies.

It’s all about the mind-set of creating something out of nothing and exploring interests, educators said.

The work areas provide hands-on learning and help with critical thinking skills that can boost self-confidence, Zepik said.

District officials are focusing on developing what they call 21st century learners. Part of that is enhancing student achievement with the four C’s: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication.

“Having a makerspace as part of the school library fits right into those goals,” Zepik said.

Each of district’s libraries has taken a different spin on creating the new learning areas. Some interesting components include STEM bins, Lego walls, 3-D printers, Bloxels (video game makers), collaborative coloring sheets, marble runs and more.

Some South Madison makerspace materials involve green screens, where students can import images of people and things into video projects.

In addition, the elementary computer classes have a rotation of tech tools, including programmable remote-controlled spheres that roll and other robotics devices.

Once those have gone through a rotation and students have learned to use them, each elementary school will have its own set to put in the makerspace area for students to use.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.