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Making new opportunities


Valley Parents Correspondent

CLAREMONT — When the Claremont MakerSpace was looking for online instructors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacqueline Labate answered the call. The Topsham, Vt., resident offered to teach math classes to children ages 8-12. If it wasn’t for the pandemic and the necessity for remote learning, the distance would have made it impossible for her to do so.

With a background in high school math, mathematics consulting and running a nonprofit organization, Labate sought to teach the answer to the proverbial adolescent question, “When am I going to use this in real life?”

In her first class, called design technology, students used math to build towers, bridges and even marshmallow launchers. In math art, she taught them how to use math to create Escher-like tessellations and beautiful quilts, which reinforced the concepts of transformational geometry. Students used dice to practice their computational skills in math game. Rich discussions — and fun — were a hallmark in each class.

“All of these workshops are designed to give kids choice while they’re experimenting, learning how to make the challenges work for them and giving them opportunities to express how they approached the tasks,” Labate said. “Being able to articulate one’s thinking is empowering for the learner and enlightening for everyone else.”

People of all ages looking to learn a new skill or use hightech, specialized equipment have found a home at the Claremont MakerSpace, a nonprofit.

During the pandemic, that space can be found both in the old Sawtooth mill building in downtown Claremont and virtually in the nonprofit organizat ion’s online resources.

It’s really become a community hub and a place for curious people to learn, experiment and pursue all sorts of interests, from hand-made pottery from home or binding coptic notebooks that are laser cut at the MakerSpace, Director of Education Workforce Brendan Dangelo said.

Like many nonprofit organizations, the pandemic hurt the institution financially, Dangelo said, but it has also allowed the organization to grow its virtual footprint. That, in part, is due to the adaptive, creative people the MakerSpace has attracted.

“That’s the beauty of a MakerSpace,” he said.

The Claremont MakerSpace has seven different departments: wood shop, metal shop, jewelry shop, fiber arts, electronics and a computer lab where members can utilize the space and tools, now with COVID-19 safety measures in place.

“It can be tough because a lot of what we do is hands-on, but a lot of the science and design portions can be done at home now,” Dangelo said. “I think people are learning to make from home and finding ways to do that creatively. We’re still open for members, and people are coming in and making here.”

Above: People gather for the open house for the Claremont MakerSpace in October 2017. Below: People can schedule time to use equipment at the Claremont MakerSpace, including 3D printers.


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