The Interstates Foundation's Engage program was launched in 2021 to help our team members engage with causes in their communities. This blog series introduces the program, the roles that make this project successful, and the people positively impacting their communities by engaging. Learn about the Engage Coordinator role here. Discover how the Interstates Foundation is helping grow these efforts.
Read on to hear from Engage participant Jaclyn Lamfers about how the program helped the Sioux Center Community School District create a flexible, functional makerspace for middle school students.
Tell us about the makerspace project. How did it come about?
The Interstates Foundation chose to support the Sioux Center Community School District by renovating and transforming its Industrial Tech shop and classroom in the former high school (now middle school). The goal was to leave the school with a functional and flexible makerspace intended to spark the curiosity and creativity of middle school-aged students in the areas of STEM and beyond.
How did you get involved with this Engage project?
As one of the Interstates Foundation's larger projects, they needed to pull in additional help. A coworker recruited me to help co-lead in May of 2021. Having sons in intermediate and middle school made this project an easy "yes" for me.
As a parent, my work on the space was a tangible contribution to the educational opportunities my kids and future generations will have. This is thanks to the Interstates Foundation's generous contribution and shared vision with the school. Not only did the project provide an opportunity to put sweat equity into transforming a space, but it also allowed several Interstates team members to work alongside our kids' educators to really understand how we could make improvements that would make their teaching experience enjoyable, convenient, and creative in the process.
What did the makerspace project achieve?
In the classroom portion of the space, Interstates team members joined forces to demo old built-in desks and wall fixtures and help remove old furniture. We provided the classroom with a facelift of fresh paint and repurposed furniture better suited to the anticipated new use of the space. We worked with a contractor to add a doorway to a storage closet from the classroom to allow for simple and accessible storage of materials. The project also funded green screen equipment for this space in anticipation of the curriculum providing an opportunity for kids to learn related skills.
In the shop portion of the space, Interstates team members were instrumental in helping demo the entire area. Demo work included removing all materials left from the former use of the space and eliminating old furniture/fixtures that were no longer usable. We lined up a contractor to paint the shop's ceiling, and numerous Interstates team members and their children worked to prep the walls for a fresh coat of paint.
Additionally, team members used their skills to repurpose and transform existing furniture to make it functional for the new space. The large, heavy shop tables with vice grips attached for woodworking were converted into smaller storage units on caster wheels with fresh paint, adding a pop of color. The repurposed shop tables allow for flexible use of the space. Depending on the teacher's needs, they can easily be pushed to the side to create more open space or divide the room.
The built-in desks from the classroom were transformed into storage units within the supply closet. We also moved a large TV from the classroom out into the shop space to give the teachers a way to display any instructions or supplementary information easily. The Foundation budget allowed us to purchase some new tables for this space and colorful signage that promotes the creativity and excitement as intended for the area.
What would you say to people interested in getting involved with their community but who don't know where to start?
Be curious about how your talents can make a difference in your community. If you don't see an opportunity that interests you, consider bringing one up. Even with a small investment of time and talent, you can make a large impact and be a difference-maker. Community service projects like this are a great way to rally your coworkers to get involved and give back. In my experience, I formed incredible friendships with coworkers I'd otherwise never work with during a typical day in the office.
If you have questions about this program, email email@example.com.