by Christy Heitger-Ewing | photos by 360 Tours

It can be a real challenge to provide kids with a quality education that also ignites their curiosity and sparks their interest in potential careers.

Through a collaboration with Hamilton Southeastern schools, the Maker Playground at Hub & Spoke is making it easier for fifth grade classes to keep their lifelong possibilities wide-open. HSE schools are seeing a significant shift in K-12 education, but particularly in middle school grades, to focus more on career outcomes and experiential learning rather than just on grade and test performance. This real-world application gives students exposure to skills they wouldn’t necessarily have on-campus in their classrooms.

“This is near and dear to our hearts here,” says Nick Snyder, Maker Playground Manager at Hub & Spoke. “This is an exploratory way for the students to try their hand at a bunch of different skills.”

Each semester, teacher-in-residence Jennifer Suskovich comes up with four modules, each designed to get tools in kids’ hands in various ways, including completing a unique woodworking project.

Because this is part of their curriculum, students come to Hub & Spoke for four hours a day, four days a week. Suskovich integrates the Makerspace capabilities with the core learning standards of the school, making this much more than a simple class project. One example: a math component to the woodworking project circles back around to what the students are doing in the classroom.

During semester one, they do hammering and nailing and use wood glue to build a toolbox. During semester two, they use drill presses, power drills, and screwdrivers to understand different uses for drilling and fastening. They also learn about 3D modeling and 3D printing through an application called Tinkercad, an intro-level 3D modeling software designed by Autodesk. They even dabble in circuitry and stop-motion animation, which double down on core science and art principles beyond the average student curriculum.

Suskovich has also applied for and won several grants that have allowed her to purchase laser cutters and cobots (collaborative robots) for the Makerspace.

“As far as workforce development goes, our goal is to get the tools in students’ hands at this age to show them that tools aren’t scary and to show them that these technologies are really accessible,” says Snyder. “That way, they are less likely to be wary of these professions down the road. Here we provide a safe environment in which they can play around.”

For more information about Hub & Spoke, visit