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Toms River Regional Schools Celebrates Maker Movement

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Volunteers and Platinum Sponsors Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation help create third free Jersey Shore Makerfest for educators and community members from around region

The community is invited to attend the third annual Jersey Shore Makerfest, being held at the Toms River Regional Schools Arena and High School North at 1245 Old Freehold Road in Toms River, NJ. The event runs Saturday, October 14, from 10 AM to 4 PM. Organized by district staff, students, and community members, participation and admission are free thanks to generous sponsors, allowing people from all walks of life to experience the maker movement in all its shapes and colors.

Makerfest was originally imagined as an opportunity for area schools to collaborate with each other and with local arts, cultural, historical, and science institutions, with the intent of creating enduring partnerships and improved practices in classrooms. Toms River Regional Schools’ teachers and students continue to benefit from the impact and influence of Makerfest.

A wide variety of makerspaces have been and are being built in each of the district’s 18 schools, most through grants and donations. These are helping students master revised state and national technology, career, and science standards. New robotics clubs are in high demand. Three high school Career Academies launched in September, each with a hands on technology component. Teachers are creating more interactive, inquiry-based, and problem-oriented lessons. And expanding partnerships with local and national organizations have resulted in over a million dollars in grants, donations, and curriculum support to expand STEAM and career initiatives over just the past two years.

Organizer Marc Natanagara, Assistant Superintendent, has seen the global maker movement as an opportunity to make learning more engaging. He has presented on district initiatives in several states, most recently on September 24 at the World Maker Faire in New York City, which drew over 100,000 attendees.

“The maker mindset is about individuality and the role of creativity and choice in learning,” said Dr. Natanagara. “Many of our teachers are already doing it in whole or in part by integrating different subjects together and designing lessons that captivate students with real world issues.”

In the past three years, the Jersey Shore Makerfest has attracted more than 300 big and small name innovators from across the country (and Australia), including Apple, Google, Home Depot, Maker Depot, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Tuckerton Seaport, the NJ Department of Education, and school districts from across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. District Supervisor of Educational Technology Tiffany Lucey has been a leader in finding interesting and diverse organizations to partner with.

Over 8000 attendees to date have had the opportunity to experience the maker revolution in its many forms, including drones, coding, 3D printing, circuit-building, and even knitting, bonsai artistry, and cooking. Last year, robots took over a space of their own in the high school gym for the “Grunin Robot Smackdown,” complete with prizes for the most articulate, mobile, and beautiful creation. For all three years an interactive performance art experience has served as a live arena centerpiece.

According to District Superintendent David Healy, “Makerfest represents the merging of our schools with a larger community. This includes not just other schools, but organizations from our town, county, and across the state. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to work together and network to build long term relationships.”

The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation returns for its third year as a major supporter of Makerfest and is the chief reason it is free for all, attendees and participants alike. As a platinum sponsor in 2017, they have helped it expand to include the first Jersey Shore Hackathon and Toms River United Sustainability Team Green Fair, both major events of their own. The district is working even more closely with the town Business Improvement District and Chamber of Commerce to highlight innovators, artists, and supporters in the Toms River and Ocean County area.

Board of Education President Ben Giovine has attended each Makerfest and has seen it evolve from a big start in 2015 to an even bigger event this year.

“The future of learning and all that is possible is on display at Makerfest,” said Giovine. “I’ve seen students, parents, and grandparents engage with dozens of activities, creating an experience like no other. If you attend just one Makerfest, you will be hooked. Toms River Schools is incredibly proud to continue hosting such an incredible event. We are even more proud of our staff and students who make this event possible.”

For more information and to register to attend, go to http://jerseyshoremakerfest.org.

For More Information on Makerfest, contact:

Dr. Marc Natanagara, Toms River Regional School District Assistant Superintendent mnatanagara@trschools.com (732) 818-8532

For Information on Grants, Sponsorships, and Partnerships, contact:

Mr. Mike Kenny, Toms River Regional School District Grant Writer mkenny@trschools.com (732) 505-5539

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