The TAF@Washington Middle School MakerSpace just opened in early 2021, and April 2022 proved to be the busiest time at Makerspace yet! The extra creativity and experimentation were thanks to our Ramadan observing students.
Ramadan is the holiest month of the year on the Muslim calendar; it involves fasting from sunup to sundown and is a time of deep reflection. This reflection can be disrupted by being around those not observing Ramadan who are eating and drinking, as well as participating in musical arts. Needing a comfortable place to go during lunch, music, and band, Muslim students at Washington Middle School were welcomed into the TAF MakerSpace.
The dramatic increase in student use was a welcomed, but sometimes messy change of pace. Each student interacted with the space in their own way, excitedly exploring projects and tools that sparked their curiosity. 
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One popular area of interest was the newly introduced paint station, which led to creative opportunities and challenges for all. Just two days in, the space had become a messy artistic outlet for many! Some were painting signs to say congratulations to their recently engaged teacher. Others placed handprints onto abstract scenes and let their creative juices flow.

The TAF MakerSpace is outfitted with several 3D printers specialized to different tasks. One 3D printer includes a pen so the students can draw free-hand with the printing material, prompting scrawling names and doodles. One student drew a flower, using all the colors available and looking right at home, “Yeah, I’ve used this before. I’ve also drawn hearts.” Another printer was hard at work making part of a green goblin mask for one of the students.

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Two students clustered around the sewing machine stuffing fabric scraps into a small pouch, “we were trying to make a bag, but now it’s become a pillow.” Noting how the small pillow could serve as a pin cushion, they grinned, “oh, yeah!”

Later, another student at the sewing machine was trying to connect two pieces of fabric, “every time I think I have done it, I pull it away and it comes apart. I can hand sew, but this?” she shook her head. Despite the frustration, she continued troubleshooting, determined to bring her vision to life.

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One notably popular device was the 3D laser printer. Students submitted files for the machine to cut, sometimes a longer list than can be completed in one class period. So, the machine continued printing after the students left, excited to see their finished pieces the next day. Students often request favorite anime characters and gifts for parents and teachers. A “best principal ever” plaque was printing away while more requests were made.

One student held up a laser cut silhouette of Africa, “I wanted to make Africa because that is my continent, that’s where I’m from. My family is from this part,” he pointed to East Africa, “Here’s Somalia and Ethiopia, and here’s Eritrea – that’s my country.”

The MakerSpace also gets students creating with old packaging materials. Some students were sculpting Styrofoam with a foam cutter, and another tried to figure out how to glue pieces of cardboard back into a box shape.

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For more active students, a student aid brought in some juggling balls. Eager to show off their skills, students performed their best stunts. One student asked, “wanna see me do a magic trick?” and showed the ball hovering between her hands. Another juggled, throwing a ball under their leg, “do you know how to do this?”

On the flow of the day, one student explained, “I’m here during lunch and band. I can’t play the trombone right now.” He talked about what else was off-limits, “video games are okay, as long as there is no killing,” painting a picture of what is and is not in the spirit of Ramadan.

When it comes to student projects at the end of the day, not much of the student work goes unclaimed. Many students take their projects home with them, proud to show off what they have made. 

In the TAF MakerSpace, students are in charge of their own learning, and they are excited about it! Inclusive learning means these students didn’t have to sit out of class time for religious observation, they could keep learning in an alternative space. This is equitable education in action.