‘Maker theater’ puts the spotlight on geometry and literacy

Edwards Elementary students perform maker theater

Edwards Elementary students perform a play written by Iowa State literacy students using sets designed by ISU geometry students. (Larger image) Photos by Ryan Riley, College of Human Sciences

AMES, Iowa – Third graders at Edwards Elementary School combined lessons in literacy and geometry to stage a theater with sets and scripts developed with the help of Iowa State University students.

About 35 ISU School of Education students in Sara Nelson's literacy class and Christa Jackson's geometry class worked with about 75 third-graders in a project called “maker theater.”

“We’re showing how geometry, STEM and literacy can be integrated with one another, and have it brought to life in a third-grade classroom,” said Jackson, an associate professor in the School of Education. “We don’t live in a silo world. We’re learning these different subjects for a reason. They all work together to make a productive society.”

The Iowa State literacy students wrote the script in age-appropriate language for third-graders to read, while geometry students designed the set with plans and directions for the younger students to follow. The project gave the future teachers a chance to apply their learning in ways they can someday use in their own classrooms. Continue reading.

Quick takes from students

Geometry and literacy were not the only lessons Iowa State and Edwards Elementary students gained from the experience.

Liz Haut, first-year graduate student in ISU’s masters of education program, says working on the sets made her think about how to develop directions that were helpful without limiting students.

“We wanted students to be creative with their set, but also have spatial understanding and awareness as they created their background. So if they had a window, it should be high and if they had a table, it should be at the bottom of the cardboard. We made miniature models for the students, so it was impressive to see the set in life-size and how the students tied it together with the reader’s theater.”

Tessa Danner, Edwards Elementary student, says she learned how to work as a member of a team.

“I was a little nervous at first, but when I was speaking I got used to it and it was fun. I learned that we can work together and I had fun with my friends.”

Sam Ronan, senior in elementary education, says he discovered new ways to make math fun for students.  

“I learned how to ‘hide’ geometry in fun crafts. If I had asked these students if they thought they were doing math, they would have said no. Math is something students need to be critical thinkers. In the real world, these students may not become mathematicians or engineers, but they will use those critical thinking skills.”

Jane Grimm, Edwards Elementary student, says she learned it is OK to make mistakes.

“I knew that it would turn out well no matter if any mistakes were made, because we could improve. That’s what made me really happy about having this experience.”