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MakerSpace classroom will benefit students

Jim Thorpe Area School District, UGI Utilities and the Lehigh Carbon Community College Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE Afterschool program all have one thing in common.

They want today's students to get the best education possible that will prepare them for tomorrow's challenges.On Tuesday, representatives from the three organizations gathered at L.B. Morris Elementary in Jim Thorpe to unveil a new classroom that will be used not only by the Jim Thorpe SHINE students, but also the more than 1,000 children who walk the halls of both L.B. Morris and Penn-Kidder Elementary. The new space, called MakerSpace, was made possible through a $40,000 donation from UGI."MakerSpaces are opportunities for the students to learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Jim Thorpe Superintendent Brian Gasper said. "These are great hands-on things to get them involved in understanding science and technology."He said it is beneficial to have such a partnership with SHINE because the new classroom will benefit not only the SHINE students after the school day ends, but also the students as teachers work the MakerSpace into their daily curriculum.MakerSpace includes opportunities for students to design, map out and physically create something using 3-D printers. Tables in the room are magnetized and are white boards to allow for designing wherever they are. Their designs can then turn into projects or even 3-D models, such as the clouds they were printing on Tuesday as they learned about weather and erosion.Gasper thanked UGI and SHINE for helping the school district to broaden its education to help students become more "technologically advanced 21st-century learners down the road."Fourth-grader Haylee Jade Fischi, 10, said SHINE is amazing because "it changes lives."Her statement showed through as 30 children concentrated on projects that challenged their minds and forced them to think outside the box as representatives toured the new room.UGI has been a partner with SHINE over the past four years, donating $111,000 to the program.SHINE Director Rachel Strucko said that the money UGI invested in the program has "changed the lives of over 500 children in Carbon and Schuylkill counties and the MakerSpaces will enrich thousands of students' lives."It is truly an amazing thing," she said.Thea Phalon, community relations manager for UGI, was thrilled to see what UGI's commitment to SHINE has been able to accomplish."We see what that money does and that is so important because we can see this changing kids lives," she said. "It's really rewarding to see these kinds of programs grow and strength and be sustainable and have great outcomes. You know you're putting your money in a good place. To get to see kids using MakerSpace and have different opportunities that we never had as kids and to have that at a school regardless of their income and have access to a 3-D printer, all these things that are really helping kids think and learn to think and learn for themselves, it's really exciting."Strucko said that the MakerSpaces will enable both Jim Thorpe and SHINE to be able to provide more hands-on education both inside the classroom and afterschool.Both Penn-Kidder and L.B. Morris will now act as models for future expansion into the other school districts SHINE serves."We're really changing lives and this funding changes families lives and maybe their outcomes," she said. "They're graduating. They're going to community colleges or getting short-term certificate programs from technical schools."

SHINE student Ryan Filer shows Thea Phalon, community relations manager for UGI Utilities, one of the projects they are working on in the new MakerSpace at L.B. Morris Elementary in Jim Thorpe. AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS