Donna Hall

Donna Hall
Library Media / Technology Specialist
Ridgecrest Elementary
Largo, Florida

How one school’s makerspace is bringing the student body together

Donna Hall is the media and technology specialist at Ridgecrest Elementary school in Florida. She also supervises the makerspace encouraging students to use the space for collaboration and special projects.

For Donna, the makerspace at Ridgecrest helps students amplify what they have learned in other lessons and allows them to demonstrate their learnings.

Donna enjoys playing with her students and helping them find inspiration when they need it. She explains that SAM Labs has provided the perfect way to engage students, especially those who struggle to focus in their usual lessons:

“I had a student in the other day who didn’t want to read or write in the class as he just wasn’t inspired by Charlotte’s Web. Instead, I brought him to the library and I had him read the tutorial and then later on we went through how to build the SAM Labs car. I made him write all the directions so somebody else could follow those directions. He was very proud of his little journal. He walked around and talked to everybody about his car and how he can help them rebuild it using his directions. In the end, he had actually done the writing that the teacher wanted him to do and he also had done the reading that the teacher wanted for him to do, but he did it with electronics.”

Donna’s student has been inspired to build other vehicles for his teachers using SAM Labs all because of his makerspace experience. “People tell him that he can’t focus but he could focus the entire time he was here because of something that was engaging to him.” Donna hopes to inspire many more students in this way.

“When I get the chance to do something that inspires the kids, that they aren’t intrigued by in the classroom, that’s really special, because you get to do something that might make them want to come back tomorrow.”

Donna started out as a kindergarten teacher. When a grant opportunity came up to train teachers on technology, Donna jumped at the chance and this put her on her path to technology. “I wanted to support teachers in their growth using technology and resources. The library seemed to be the best place for me to go.”

Donna has been a library information specialist for 18 years and in that time, has seen many changes.

“The library used to be a place where the kids would come in and check out books. You’d be very quiet and wait until everyone got their books and then the class would go back. Now, in our school, the library is the hub of the school.”

Donna is always trying to find different ways to engage her students and she focuses on making her makerspace a creative and interesting place.

“My focus for the makerspace has been to find different ways that kids can come in and demonstrate their understanding and have a fun time doing it too, so they get the chance to create as part of their learning day.”

It’s not just her students she’s assisting. Donna aims to help teachers feel more comfortable teaching STEAM subjects.

“In kindergarten they have a writing prompt, which is: how would you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? They have to figure out all the steps it would take to make one, and then they have to realize that there is a logical sequence. The teachers don’t realise that that’s coding. I talk to them and say, you know you just wrote an algorithm to make your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s all about the connections. Every day we encounter algorithms.”

Donna is a firm believer in teaching students to understand technology because it shapes their everyday lives and they are using it all the time:

“They don’t have to become programmers, they don’t have to become engineers, they don’t have to create devices, but they have to understand that the little computer they’re using is not magic - there is a way that it works - it feels like magic, but it’s not.”

“I’d like to feel like that all of my kids have as many opportunities available to them as possible and hopefully some of them will make the changes in the world that I’d like to see happen.”

With Donna guiding them, we’re sure her students are getting a head start.