SPRING HILL — During what are known as "specials," students leave their homerooms and move among a variety of classes offering subjects beyond the good ol' basics. At Spring Hill Elementary School, the specials rotations include physical education, media center (technology) and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, lab.
New this year are theater and Maker's Mind.
Theater, taught by Sherie Gamble, encompasses many aspects of art, such as singing, reader's theater, prop creation and performance. An increase in student numbers, Spring Hill principal Michael Maine explained, has allowed the school to add theater as a rotation.
Maker's Mind, taught by Chris Lewis, is a classroom with centers ranging from hydroponics to robots to sewing. There is a lot going on in the classroom. The hydroponics setup connects plants to fish, so the plants feed from the nutrients produced by the fish.
Ozobot Bits are tiny robots designed to introduce children to computer software coding.
"It's a small, little robot that can be coded to move forward, backward, up and down and make noises," Maine said.
And the classroom has a computer deconstruction zone.
"The students learn the components of what's inside (used computers), using electric screwdrivers and drills," the principal said. "It's what we would call inquiry-based learning."
The activity leads to piles of used computer parts. Those are used at the Bot Spot, where students use them to make art pieces.
Another art center is called Rainforest Recycling. Students use recycled items to produce works of art.
"They can do any kind of artwork they want," Lewis said.
Students can rotate to the Brickyard, where there are Legos available for building. The Circuit Breakers stop is for learning basic computer circuitry.
Computer Conquerors is the place for computer programming.
"They can do animation, little games, and anything they make is published on the Scratch site," Lewis said.
Scratch is a website for students, provided through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology media lab, so students can share what they create with other students.
"We have a whole sewing center," Lewis said.
In Sew What?, students can do basic sewing on machines, as well as projects by hand.
The children also have a butterfly garden in the works.
Spring Hill Elementary is looking at the possibility of working with other schools to have a Makerspace Fair. (Makerspace is a movement that provides students with all manner of tools and items, allowing them to ponder, explore and create. Maker's Mind is Spring Hill Elementary's version.)
"That would allow our students to showcase what they've designed with other schools, who can show what they've made to us," Lewis said.
Maine suggested that Maker's Mind reaches students in many ways — kinesthetic, auditory, hands-on.
"That class supports our science (and) math standards. Pretty much all of our Florida standards can be hit with one class," he said.
The school welcomes donations for the program, including used televisions, VCRs, sewing equipment, Legos and yarn.