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Great Expectations School Receives Grant to Create Mobile Makerspace

Great Expectations School (GES) in Grand Marais has been granted $10,000 from the Northland Founda­tion to create a “Mobile Makerspace.” GES is a public charter school that serves K-8th graders.

The GES announcement of the grant said, “Thanks to the generous support of the Northland Foundation, students will now have even more opportunities to explore, create, and innovate right from the palm of their hands!”

Makerspaces are often found in schools, public libraries, and other community locations. They are most often collaborative workshops where people meet, learn new technologies, and share their creative interests. In schools, Makerspaces offer explora­tion, participatory learning, and the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Nathan Fell, the Science teacher at GES who will administer the grant, is excited to get the Makerspace up and running for the new school year in the new school building. Under construc­tion on the existing GES campus, the new building offers seven class­rooms, a second-floor common area, and a new kitchen and lunchroom.

This school year is Fell’s first at GES, but he has taught mid­dle-school-level science and math in diverse environments from Fergus Falls and St. Paul, MN, to New Or­leans, LA.

“The real currency for a teach­er isn’t the paycheck,” he said. “It’s seeing the look on the face of that kid who has been banging their head against the wall to understand a con­cept when they finally get it.”

The GES Makerspaces will be on several carts that Fell will build and equip over the summer break. Each cart will contain grade-appropriate tools and supplies curated by Fell, along with proposed curriculum guidance for the teachers using them.

The curriculum for Makerspace fol­lows Minnesota Department of Edu­cation science standards.

Fell finds the GES environment dif­ferent from other schools he’s worked at. “GES has parent involvement in spades,” he said.

Krista Olson, a school mom, pre­pared and shepherded the grant ap­plication for Fell. According to the grantor’s website, “The Northland Foundation supports Northeast Min­nesota people and communities work­ing toward a future where everyone feels they belong and can thrive.”

The Makerspace concept teaches students basic mechanics. They ma­nipulate tools and materials to create what they envision, and they learn how to fail and start again.

“It’s about learning from mistakes,” Fell said. “All kids have grit and de­termination but sometimes quit too soon. They haven’t had enough expe­rience yet.”

Fell hopes to include the broader community in the Makerspace pro­gram over time. He’s approachable, friendly, and obviously committed to helping students.

Fell’s wife, Heidi, grew up in Tofte and graduated from Cook County High School. He described moving here from New Orleans and said, “We both said this was our last move. If there’s a next move, it’ll be feet first.”

The school’s announcement has the last word. “With this grant, we can’t wait to bring hands-on learning expe­riences to every corner of our school. From robotics to art projects, our Mo­bile Makerspace will spark curiosity and ignite imaginations.”

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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