Almost overnight, the landscape of daily life has changed dramatically for every community around the world due to the sudden and powerful impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Surviving, recovering, and rebuilding after this unprecedented event will require enduring hope for the future, commitment to community, and capacity for problem-solving beyond anything we have ever known. Libraries are designed to support all the above. Well-equipped libraries are invaluable sources for vital information and research, they provide accessible meeting centers for creative collaboration among traditional and new community partners; and they offer educationally rich, safe places for school aged youth - most of all teens, according to library usage data. Of immediate impact is providing real-life, engaging opportunity for teens to close the learning gap accrued during COVID-19 mandated school closings - including use of the Rotary Maker Space 3-D printer to produce N-95 masks and other PPE items.
The Rotary Club of Bigfork and Kalispell Rotary Club are partnering with the Imagine IF Library Foundation to make state-of-the-art, educational technology accessible for the school students and community of the unincorporated village of Bigfork. Small rural communities like Bigfork often lack the resources to provide up-to-date educational tools for their school children and adult learners, and look to their libraries to provide effective and creative learning spaces like the Rotary Maker Space
A Maker Space is a tactile learning place where people of all ages have an opportunity to explore their own interests while learning to use physical and virtual tools and materials to develop creative projects. The applications are endless and can be incorporated into a host of STEAM-based programs (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Mathematics) to build 21st century skills and advance lifelong learning opportunities for community members and students of all ages.
Research demonstrates that over the summer, students suffer learning losses, not only in reading but in math and science, where losses tend to be even greater. Imagine If Library's 9-week Summer Experience program in Bigfork specifically targets high school teens, to engage them in STEAM-based activities that will maintain and strengthen their scholastic competency levels during summer breaks.
Incorporating the Rotary Maker Space as part of the Summer Experience program will increase teens' interest and program attendance; and it has the potential to expand beyond hands-on learning into the digital world, where many young people hope to pursue a profession. The Maker Space will provide teens with a creative outlet and help them develop essential 21st century skills for future careers.
Bigfork High School teachers can encourage their students to use the Rotary Maker Space to enhance special projects during the regular school year, thereby strengthening the library-high school partnership and increasing student familiarity and comfort with the library.
Please see Project Budget accompanying this application. All District matching grant funds and both Rotary Clubs' matching contributions will cover costs for fundamental hardware upgrades and new components to build and equip a working Rotary Maker Space. These include a 3-D printer and spools, Virtual Reality system, and a drone.
Ideally, the Maker Space will be ready to use during the library's 2020 Summer Experience Program for teens. All equipment will be branded with the Rotary International logo and Rotary People of Action posters will be on display in the Maker Space. Transform / Connect / Inspire!
How Rotarians will be involved
Bigfork and Kalispell Rotarians will help the Imagine If Library team unpack and set up the equipment, and our two Rotary Clubs will co-host a grand opening event to celebrate and demonstrate the accessible wonders of this new educational technology. Upon installation, Rotary volunteers will help teens learn how to use the Maker Space for the remaining weeks of the Summer Experience.
The addition to the Bigfork branch of the Imagine IF Library that this grant will provide will offer excellent opportunities for Rotarians to enrich the lives of every child, teenager, young entrepreneur, parent, business owner, and senior in the greater Bigfork area.