Imagine a high school classroom where students can write about topics that they are passionate about, where collaboration and process are as important as the results, where grade abatement, mindfulness check-ins, and flexibility abound. All of these things can be found in Marcus Eure’s Humanities makerspace and the results are impressive.
Eight out of the top 10 graduating seniors from Brewster High School took Eure’s AP English course. In addition, many of Eure’s former students have credited his makerspace with preparing them for college. Others are working to implement makerspaces of their own.
“A real makerspace is taking real-world, authentic problems and trying to solve them with the tools you have,” said Eure. “That could be ‘How do we pass this AP exam?’ or ‘How do I write the best and most authentic essay?’ It is not me saying, ‘I’m interested in 1984, so you’re going to read that and write about it.’ What real world problem does that solve? What’s the humanities-based, authentic problem?”
For Eleanor Keefe, a 2019 graduate and top-10 student, the makerspace environment was transformative. “The atmosphere of the makerspace is unlike any classroom environment I've experienced in my four high school years: it is better,” she said. “It is an environment entirely dedicated to the needs of its students, encouraging collaboration, utilization of technology, and independent collegiate-level learning.”
Eure, a Milken Educator Award-winner praised for his innovation, has been perfecting the formula for his makerspace for nearly 10 years. The structure of his class changes from year to year, building on feedback from former students and aiming to better prepare students for an ever-changing future.
Eure went on to say that, “If it’s really a makerspace, the units start to disappear a little bit.”
Instead, like the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan, Eure’s course is built around specific skills and traits rather than content.
“The independent nature of this class is by far my favorite aspect,” said Keefe. “Instruction is individualized with different ideas, prompts, and discussions for every student. This classroom experience was the first time I ever felt completely trusted by a teacher; trusted to do my work, understand a task, or just be mature as a student and person.”
Some students were a little unsure of the class at the start of the year, as they were pushed out of their comfort zones. Junior Marissa Crowley really questioned the makerspace system in the beginning.
“I didn’t think it was an accurate reflection of what students are capable of,” she said. “But once I figured it out, it worked really well for me. I am so accustomed to being told ‘This is what you have to do.’ So it really threw me off. Throughout the year, I have been able to write about subjects that I am passionate about. It has taught me the importance of research and basing your opinion on facts and not just what you are told. That was a big lesson for me that I am going to carry throughout my life.”
Graduates of the district also agree that the makerspace course prepared them well for life beyond high school.
“AP Language was one of the most rewarding classes I took during my time at Brewster High School,” graduate Cloey Callahan recently wrote to Eure. “It thoroughly prepared me for college. I will never forget the lessons learned in that classroom and how much my writing grew in only a year’s time. I truly believe my turning point in my love for writing was during your class. It allowed me to be passionate about the art and it allowed me to push myself to hone my skill.”
Librarian Brendan Breen is impressed with what Eure has done with the makerspace as well.
“He is willing to take risks,” Breen said. “His class is so tailored to each student. They get to measure their grades and there is a lot of self-reflection. They actually have to explain how they learned. It’s empowering.”
That feeling of empowerment is sure to stick with them well into the future.