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It's About Innovation: Emily Colpi

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Emily Colpi is not just a librarian for present; she exemplifies the future of libraries across America. “There’s a shift happening in education. I’m more of a coach, there to inspire the students and not have all of the answers because that’s not how life works.”

Emily says change is happening at various speeds due to technology, and one of these changes is in the landscape of the school – and even public – library. “The library is not just a warehouse anymore, it’s the place to get together, collaborate and create. It’s a community space.”

You’ll very rarely hear a “shhhhh…quiet down!” in the Mariemont High School library. With collaboration spaces, digital researching and MakerSpace happening in the high school library, the place is buzzing with activity.

Mrs. Colpi, who has been working at Mariemont High School since 2002 and graduated from Purdue in 2000 and then Wright State a few years later with a Master of Education with a Library Media specialty, launched a MakerSpace in the Mariemont High School library in Fall 2014. “We were already using the library as a learning commons, and MakerSpace is a great visual manifestation of our mantra – come share our space.” According to the school’s MakerSpace page, it’s “a hands-on space in the library where you can create, explore, tinker, design, and DIY.” Makerspaces are popping up all over libraries across the country, including the Cincinnati Public Library in downtown Cincinnati. For Mrs. Colpi, the concept of a MakerSpace brings structure for official programming so on a regular basis she is able to bring in experts and schedule activities.  “When you let people take things apart, they ask a lot of interesting questions, and people who don’t consider themselves artists do some really creative things.”

And creating things doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of describing what they’ve done on MakerTuesdays at the high school – costuming, 3D printing, experimenting with SketchUp 3D modeling software, creating puzzles using an app, upcycling books to create art, disassembling an overhead projector to see what makes it tick, creating steampunk pumpkins and using the tools and technology in the MakerSpace to apply to lessons outside the library.  For example, eight students had a cell modeling party for Biology class, using pieces from the MakerSpace to create 3D cell models. And some students stumbled on a 3-inch floppy disc and had never seen one. Mrs. Colpi challenged them to take it apart and create something cool with the discs. Naturally, researching ensued.

“There are these learning moments they come up with, and I just help them get to the resources they need to find the answers. I don’t have to be the expert in everything, I just have to make the connections and find the experts.”

And the MakerSpace has seen some experts.

Mariemont High School student Martin Schram came in with his drone and shared his experiences and expertise, helping other students write a grant to get the parts they need to build a drone together.

The Costume Gallery owners brought in costumes and masks they hand made for local productions, and worked with students on mask creation.

Students were interested in web design so Mariemont High School teacher Mr. Becksfort came in and shared his expertise.

District STEM instructor David Valentine visited and did some 3D modeling with the students.

A former student, who has been working at the Center for Innovation at Xavier University, shared her knowledge of 3D printing with the students. “It was cool to have one of our own, who has become an expert, come in and share her knowledge.”

Mariemont High School English teacher Liz Reilly recently held a Sewing MakerTuesday and the students donated the pillowcases to Children’s Hospital.

“In the MakerSpace and in this library, everything is a learning experience and an opportunity.”

Watch "It's About ME" video here!

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