The End of the Beginning – and Words of Thanks

For the last post on this blog – the Daedalus Project has officially concluded – I wanted to share our makerspace walkthrough video and some words of thanks. First, the video:

We launched four days ago – and kids have been in the space three of those days. I still can’t believe we actually did it. In just 75 days (less than 50 for me personally – I was committed elsewhere much of the summer) we created an flexible, fun learning environment for the students of Northfield Community Middle School – and the community at large.

Our space is not done, but hopefully, it will never be. This is Version 1.0; surely with time the room will continue to evolve.

There are so many people to thank, so many individuals worked so hard all summer long to bring this vision to life:

  • Robert Garguilo, Interim Superintendent
  • Linda Albright, School Business Administrator
  • Glenn Robbins, Middle School Principal
  • Aleng Phommathep, Network Administrator
  • Melanie Woodall, Middle School Secretary
  • Mary Jane Hurley, Accounts Payable Clerk
  • Rollin Mease, Head of Maintenance, and his entire team of Custodians

My professional learning network (and subnetworks like the K-12 Fab Labs and Makerspaces group) played an IMMENSE role in this project as well. There are too many to list, but, among my many colleagues, Lucie delaBruere, Dave Zirkle and Daniel Scibienski played crucial roles.

We also had professional help with several key elements of the build. We were smart enough to know when we needed experts and for what. We were fortunate to find and retain the very best.

Last, but not least, individual parents (Monica DelaTorre, I’m looking at you) and our outstanding Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) were exceptionally generous, donating time and much-needed resources to make #NCSDigitalShop the incredible learning space it now is.

I’ll close with this thought:

“To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.”
Parable of the Faithful Servant

Building the space was easy. Now, the hard work – constructing learning and meaning – begins in earnest.

We hope you will join us on THAT journey, here:

Kevin Jarrett
Middle School STEAM Teacher
Technology, Engineering & Design Program
Northfield Community Middle School | @kjarrett

There is GREATNESS within you.

Reflecting on the first full day in #DigitalShop. So many thoughts. So much emotion. So much … ENERGY. The pictures almost capture it.

!Design Experience Zero
Every student needs to hear this. Have they heard it from you?

I worried about saying these words. What would they THINK? How would they REACT? Would they HEAR me? Would they BELIEVE me?

This is hard to express … middle-level educators, I get it now.

There was your standard deafening silence moments after I spoke. (Sorry for the melodramatics, it’s the truth.) I scanned the room.  Their reactions, their expressions … were beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Eyes wide. Just the hint of a smile. (Even a bit more, here and there.)

I had their attention.

Launching into my second slide deck, I presented some teen inventors.

!Kids Matter
Image credit:

I talked about these kids. Told their stories. Shared their innovations, speculated as to their motivations. Wondered about the role empathy might have played in their designs. Then I showed this slide:

!Kids Matter (1)
They knew where I was going.

Without fail, in every class, someone would call out:


Yep. Next slide:

!Kids Matter (2)

Followed by:



That’s when the music started. Not actual music. The kind in your head. You know what I’m talking about. THAT kind of music.

I got through. They HEARD me. They BELIEVE me.


I could SEE IT in their eyes.

Where do we go from here?

How high is up?

It all seems so trivial now…


Some fancy paint you can write on. Plastic stuff on the walls. Workbenches (ok, with wheels). Some words on the wall in vinyl lettering. Cheap hand tools. A 3D printer or two.

So what?

It’s just a classroom.

The photo above was taken June 24th, 2015. School had ended the day before. And though there had been plenty of discussion, consultation, dreaming and planning before that, June 24th is when we actually, seriously got started.

Unnamed image
David Jakes.

Started doing what?

Building something way, way, waaaaaaay more important than a classroom.

Only we didn’t know it at the time.

We began by “Embracing the Squiggle” with the help of David Jakes, a brilliant educator and digital strategist whom I’ve known and admired for years. He led a team of teachers, staff and community members through a “charette,” an “intense period of design or planning activity,” focused on the work ahead of us: defining a program. My program. Our program.

Doing the work.

I want to say it was messy, but it wasn’t. David effortlessly walked us through a complex conversation that would have been impossible otherwise. A conversation about wonder. About curiosity. (Which is it – wonder or curiosity?) About possibility. About what it means to provide a “21st century learning experience.” (I know, I know, it’s an overused phrase but it worked for us.)

Manifesto v1.0
Our Manifesto.

Hours later, something powerful emerged, something utterly magical. A mindset. A mantra. Words, yes, but our words. Words that defined our mission, our purpose, our hopes, our objective. What we had to do. What we HAVE to do. As a staff, school, and community: make our children “Life-Ready.” (We’re working on that trademark thing.)

We were done, we’d made it, and collectively, we could hardly believe it. But we were just starting. We still had a space to construct.

A “makerspace.

Luzlbot Mini.

The folks at Make say “makerspaces are community centers with tools.” That begs the question so often asked: “What should we buy for our makerspace?” The funny thing about a makerspace, to me, is that it’s not defined by what’s in it; it’s defined by what’s DONE in it. So a tiny corner of a classroom with simple tools, basic materials and passionate, inquisitive learners tinkering is every bit as much of a makerspace as a gigantic shop with every high-tech tool and programmable trinket imaginable – as long as the latter, too, also has those same passionate, inquisitive learners tinkering away.

Legos. Donated.

I need to prepare an inventory of all the things that ended up in our makerspace. I will, I promise. It was and is a wonderful, gigantic, delicious stew of crazy-cool, state-of-the-art technology and simple tools, toys and craft materials. Some new (thanks to our PTO and Education Foundation), some gently used, thanks to donations from local families. A room that had no storage now has (almost) more than it can use. Best of all, nearly everything in the space can move in response to a learner’s needs. The space is ready. (As is a little companion website we built, too.)


As we prepare for students to arrive, to experience what we’ve created, and to be inspired, the physicality of it all does seem trivial to me. Yes, many hours were spent, and many dollars were invested. (Definitely not so trivial.) Connections were forged with and between staff that hadn’t existed before. (Absolutely not trivial, in fact, for me it’s the best part of this entire exercise). Along the way, we created a place of learning unlike anything these students have ever experienced – something completely unique – a “Digital Shop” for the 21st century. And we did it all in 75 days.

That said, questions remain:

  • What will students DO in the space?
  • What will they CREATE? MAKE? LEARN?
  • What real-world PROBLEMS will they solve for OTHERS?

One thing is certain: it’s NOT just a classroom.

Not by a long shot.

And there are too many people to thank for making it possible.

School’s Out … for Never?

Digital Shop v0.95
One week to go! The last 10 days have been the most physically and mentally demanding of my adult professional life. It was literally an overwhelming crescendo of frantic activity. Thanks to the efforts of countless others, most especially my Principal Glenn Robbins, everything is finally coming together. The space. The LMS. The five day learning “experiences” that will take place in my studio. The relationships we’ll need to make it all work.

What a journey it’s been. What an adventure it’s going to be. Continue reading


Already posted about the worktables for my space – seriously excited about them. We plan to join them in pairs to form a single work surface for 5-6 students at a time. The holes in the picture below indicate where screws go into the wooden table tops that we have yet to install.

Looks easy enough…

Continue reading



Slept in yesterday morning (until about 4am); got up and cranked out about half of my second Edutopia series blog post before grabbing breakfast and rocketing up Interstate 95 from Culpeper, Virginia to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to drop off my friend and co-presenter Lucie deLaBruere. Managed to stop the car long enough for her to exit the vehicle without injury, then raced down the Atlantic City Expressway, got home, grabbed my school backpack and landed on-site at NCS at 11:10 am. Walked in and saw this: Continue reading


So, how was your summer?

This isn’t a game of Breakout. It’s a calendar. My summer calendar. Red: days I was ‘unavailable,’ either in school (the first three) or working outside the district. Green: days I was (or will be) working in the district, either physically in my new space, somwhere writing curriculum, or another #DaedalusProject task.

See that third-to-last row of solid red? The fifth box is today, Friday, a travel day, as I return from a multi-day consulting gig in Madison, Virginia.

For the first time this summer, I now have only one thing to do.

Finish. Everything.