WHS librarian leading ‘makerspace’ movement

Marshall developing curriculum for ‘Makerspace Your School Library’ program

timestamp icon
category icon Schools
Washougal High School librarian Hillary Marshall assists sophomore Jennifer Trask (left) and freshman Erica Allen with a project. (Contributed photos courtesy of Washougal School District)

Hillary Marshall, who has worked as an educator for the past 24 years, mostly as a library scientist, knows better than most about how emerging technologies have vastly changed the role of school libraries and school librarians.

“Now it’s more (about) me collaborating with teachers in their classrooms,” said Marshall, now in her seventh year as Washougal High School’s (WHS) librarian and new media technician. “I teach a lot of technology integration, and how to decipher information. I’m doing a lot more (with) the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles. I do a lot with our 3D printer. As jobs and information literacy change, my job as a librarian changes.”

That’s a big reason why she implemented a makerspace in the WHS library two years ago. Makerspaces are collaborative work spaces devoted to using technology for creating, making, learning, exploring and sharing. They can include things like three-dimensional printers, laser cutters, computer numerical control machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.

Now that Marshall has her own makerspace established, she’s helping other teachers and librarians to integrate makerspaces into their schools. Earlier this year, Marshall was selected as one of nine Washington educators to develop the “Makerspace Your School Library” curriculum for teacher librarians.

The project was funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act and written by Siri Hiltz, youth services consultant for the Washington State Library.

The group worked for two days last summer to develop lessons that are now being shared all over the state. Marshall and her training partner, Craig Seasholes, a librarian at Dearborn Park International Elementary School in Seattle, presided over teacher training sessions in Port Orchard, Washington, and Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL)in November. Marshall and Seaholes will provide several more training sessions in western Washington throughout the school year.

“The best part about makerspaces is that they’re an equalizer for students who might not be good with traditional school methods — reading, writing, taking tests,” said Jamie Bair, FVRL’s senior public services librarian of experiential learning. “They can focus on what interests them. Makerspaces are hands-on and open-ended, and it’s OK to fail; in fact, that’s encouraged (because) that’s how students learn. Makerspaces open doors for people to create and learn and build community together. It’s not based on outcome. It’s more about the process of learning, and that’s great for students who struggle with (traditional) schooling. It’s liberating for them.”

“It was phenomenal to see what Hillary was doing to provide this information to other librarians around the state. It’s great to see how far she’s come,” said Bair, who provided makerspace training to Marshall. “I really like that Hillary’s focus is always on students and making the makerspaces applicable to what (other teachers) are teaching. She’s good at making connections and showing that there’s real value in these activities. She’s got what I call ‘the techno joy.’ She’s at the forefront (of technological developments) and encourages other people. She creates an enthusiasm, a spark, in others, and that’s great to see.”

At the WHS makerspace, known as BETA Base, students are encouraged to experiment and practice design principles as they explore computer science through monthly projects.

In September, Marshall gave students a challenge of designing and creating a bridge with a 3D printer. The October challenge, designed by a WHS graduate, asked students to program a micro:bit, a pocket-sized computer. For November, Marshall promoted National Novel Writing Month and FVRL’s Imagined Ink Writing Contest, and offered black-out poetry tutorials. In December, she’ll have the students return to the 3D printer for an ornament challenge.

Even though the WHS makerspace struggles to attract students at times, Marshall can provide several examples of student success. Take WHS junior Malcom Maxwell, for example.

“I used to come to the library to do research,” said Maxwell, who recently created a Christmas ornament and a six-piece Halloween lantern. “Now I come here to learn a new skill that I never even knew about. I really enjoy 3D printing. It is a technology that wasn’t available to us a few years ago.”

The WHS makerspace is the result of three years of work by Marshall, who was motivated to provide students with more opportunities in computer sciences.

“When I got here to WHS, I was just shocked that we didn’t have any kind of computer science classes,” she said. “Our middle school students are doing these incredible things, and they’re coming to the high school and there’s nothing for them. There are so many jobs that require (computer science), and if we can’t offer those skills, those building blocks, we are really failing our students. I was on a quest, and so that’s where the idea of makerspaces came in.”

Marshall received $1,000 from WHS’ Keepers of the Library student club for makerspace materials and supplies before the start of the 2017-18 school year.

She has cultivated an arrangement with Rachael Ries, of the Washougal Community Library, to share maker materials for dual programming at WHS and the library.

“It was a huge process of just trying to get it up and off the ground,” Marshall said. “But I had a really strong foundation to start with.”

Gaining a worldview

Marshall brings a unique perspective to her position.

Before coming to WHS, she spent 12 years working as a library media specialist in the Philippines, Brazil and South Korea.

“I think (my experiences) help with the diversity lens,” she said. “I still make sure to make connections with our international students. I think my love of different nationalities and different cultures feeds my goal of wanting our print collection to have a book for every single student to see themselves in. I just had a conversation last (month) with a freshman Latina girl, and she was talking about a new book in our collection, and she said, ‘I just see myself in this.'”

Marshall, who began her career as a fourth-grade teacher and librarian at the Sumner (Washington) School District before heading overseas, said that she “was hungry for the challenge of living in a different culture.”

“Each culture kind of views education in a different way, and (seeing) that was a fascinating experience,” she said.

“In the Philippines, the public schools have two rotations because there’s so many kids — there’s like 75 kids in a classroom. And they don’t have public libraries,” she continued. “In Seoul, suicide is a problem because there’s constant pressure and so many expectations on high school kids. They’re at school from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. In S?o Paulo, it was a very dog-eat-dog kind of world there — the haves and the have-nots. There are kids coming (to school) in armored cars because violence is such a part of their lives.”

Marshall graduated from Mountain View High School in Vancouver in 1989; the University of Puget Sound (UPS) in Tacoma, Washington, with a Bachelors of Arts degree in English in 1993; and a master of arts degree in teaching from UPS in 1995.

Even though teaching was always her primary professional goal, she’s been fascinated by worldly cultures for as long as she can remember. Every year, Marshall and her partner take an international vacation. Earlier this year they visited Croatia and Greece; in April 2020, they’re heading to Paris.

“I’m a traveler. I’m a gypsy by spirit,” she said. “When I was in high school, I befriended some international students and then convinced my parents to (house) an international student. My family traveled to Mexico and Canada. I remember going to Expo 86 (in Vancouver, British Columbia) when I was in junior high, and I had my little passport. I was just fascinated by countries. When I was in college I was really intrigued by the Semester at Sea program, but I never applied because I didn’t want to interrupt my real dream of becoming a teacher.”