“I don’t know.” They’re not words that students are used to hearing from their teachers. But in Mr. Vince’s science classroom at Allis Elementary, they’re more than common. They’re a challenge. Vince Busenbark is the Reach and Science teacher at Allis, but entering his classroom is a bit more like walking into a jungle craft room than anything else.
When Vince began at Allis, he was just excited to be teaching Science. He had no plans to create such a science makerspace. However, his creativity continued churning the more he taught and wanted to engage students. The principal and school supported him, but couldn’t provide him the resources. He envisioned a space where students could interact with science, ask their own questions and solve problems their own way. An interactive space for the entire school where students not only enjoyed learning but sought out in their free time. It was a great idea. But on a teacher’s salary, at a high-poverty school grappling with budget cuts, it felt like a far-off dream. That is until WPS stepped in.
In 2007, WPS Health Solutions adopted Allis through the Foundation’s Adopt-a-School program. In 2015, they provided Vince with a $2,500 grant in support of his vision for an interactive science makerspace. Suddenly, all of his and his students’ ideas began coming to life. In Vince’s classroom, when a student has a problem, they’re used to finding a solution on their own. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Does having wings mean a bug can fly? Can you build a wind tunnel strong enough to withstand a helicopter flight? In what type of water do seeds grow best? These are the questions Vince’s students asked themselves, and they’re working to find the answers.
The best part of the space, Vince says, is the immediacy of kids’ ideas to change the space. When they come up with something new, they can do it. It’s something that wouldn’t be possible without the community support he’s received from partners like WPS.
Vince makes sure to tell his students that the space is made possible because of friends in the community who care about them. He says it makes his students feel supported. Above all, Vince says space empowers students. “They look at a table and say ‘I built that.’ They know in the future now that ‘I can do that.’”