Maker Space Spotlight: Sister Thea Bowman
This month, we are featuring our Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy’s Matt’s Maker Space! Located in Wilkinsburg, PA, their Matt’s Maker Space is one of the newest in our network and managed by Jessica deBruyn, a science, social studies, and pre-K through 8 technology instructor.
Jessica’s mission through installing Matt’s Maker Space is to inspire students to not fear the unknown, but to empower students to learn by doing. Jessica and Noelle met about a year and a half ago through a connection at the Education Partnership, and worked together to design the space. Although the COVID - 19 Pandemic has postponed their Space’s debut (originally set for Fall ‘20), Jessica is prepared for success once the time is right. Beginning next year, every student’s schedule will have one day a week for a 40-minute period in Matt’s Maker Space where Jessica will be teaching the students hands - on problem solving. Additionally, teachers will be given this schedule and during periods the Maker Space is unoccupied, teachers may reserve the space to supplement their classwork with hands-on activities.
The Matt’s Maker Space at Sister Thea Bowman’s has an abundance to offer the children of Wilkinsburg. Jessica considers their space “the epitome of grassroots maker space - made with what you had,” and was able to create the space based on items that were donated or found. Coupled with the support of Matt’s Maker Space, the huge space features sewing machines, work tables, flexible seating, a variety of materials, and is ever-growing with more tools to come! A long term goal of theirs is to eventually have volunteers and open Matt’s Maker Space to the entire community to use as a resource.
Matt’s Maker Space offers the ability to discover through simple tinkering - a different style of thinking that is not always present in classes or in low-income areas where traditionally only have class curriculum that is very fixed and leaves little room for imagination. Building practical knowledge and skills is something Jessica aspires to accomplish through the use of Matt’s Maker Space. She strongly believes that having a maker space allows students to actively practice and prepare real-world problem solving skills -- as she describes, “[skills] you can’t get from a textbook.” Jessica expresses how important it is that for students to remain competitive for prospective jobs, they will need to have the opportunities to innovate and ideate, and for the children of Sister Thea Bowman, these skills start in their Matt’s Maker Space.