Make room, Guinness Book. The World’s Largest Matt’s Maker Space is ready for inclusion.

The May 11 event at Mt. Lebanon High School drew hundreds of community members, young and not-so-young, for a variety of hands-on activities focused on the STEAM educational approach: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Vasilisa Kosyreva

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Vasilisa Kosyreva delights in the “lava lamp” she made using vegetable oil and other substances.

The Matt’s Maker Space program is an initiative of Mt. Lebanon residents Noelle and David Conover in memory of Matthew, their son who died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 12. Their nonprofit organization has established maker spaces, collaborative work areas in public places for creating and exploring, at more than a dozen locations so far, including all seven of Mt. Lebanon School District’s elementary schools.

The concept is spreading throughout the region, with the latest Matt’s Maker Space coming soon to New Castle School District in Lawrence County, to go along with a new one in Westmoreland County’s Yough School District. Another is planned for UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital in Oakland as a therapeutic resource, according to Noelle.

Ezra Franey

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Ezra Franey finishes drying his silkscreen project during the World’s Largest Matt’s Maker Space.

“We’ve been busy,” she acknowledged.

Mt. Lebanon High School certainly was busy for “World’s Largest” day, with maker stations set up all over the cafeteria, on the area overlooking it and in some of the classrooms.

“We want folks to be aware about what the maker movement is really about and how we’re implementing it in the elementary schools,” Marybeth Irvin, Mt. Lebanon’s assistant superintendent of elementary education, said. “It’s a great opportunity to bring the community together around a really exciting topic.”

The gathering was one of nearly 300 events scheduled as part of Remake Learning Days in Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Launched in 2016, the Remake Learning Network strives to provide hands-on, engaging, relevant and equitable learning experiences for children and their families.

Stacy Chambers and Ellie Ballani

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Foster Elementary School first-grade teacher Stacy Chambers helps her student Ellie Ballani with a Matt’s Maker Space project.

Mt. Lebanon’s event featured substantial participation by teachers and parents from the elementary and middle schools.

“Each school was challenged to come up with activity and recruit some volunteers to do that,” Irvin explained. “We also have high school students here helping.”

All of that added up to a day of experiential learning, providing the youngsters in attendance with first-hand opportunities to see how various processes actually work.

And that’s the whole idea behind Matt’s Maker Space, which the Conovers are committed to supporting on behalf of children – adults, too – in Mt. Lebanon and beyond.

“This wouldn’t be possible without them,” Irvin said.

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Tilden To

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Tilden To works on a activity to determine how many strands of uncooked spaghetti will support a one-pound weight.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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