Sync or Swim Blog Series #4

Spotlighting the Best Marinnovations™ in Education
By Michael Leifer, CEO Guerilla PR / Ecodads

Something extremely exciting is afoot! It’s not Santa’s reindeer landing on your roof, or a contractor patching up a leak, it’s The Town of Novato, who are raising the bar on Innovation in Educational for all of Marin.

I heard rumor that the Teen-focused Intel Clubhouse and the New Media Learning on 3rd street in San Rafael were moving because the building sold. That seemed tragic to me as this resource had brought amazing experiential and project-based learning in technology, media and crafts to an enormous number of students in Marin, building their competence and confidence. My curiosity overtook me; I needed to know what was up… So….I called John MacLeod who founded and runs the Clubhouse and New Media Learning (NML).

When I caught up with John, he informed me about some really exciting news!

Turns out, that John is forming a MAKERSPACE in Novato at the Hamilton Base, which is 1/3 larger than the NML’s previous location, and wherein they will move into during December.

For this new space, John has been extremely busy forming a ground-breaking set of interdependent partnerships between The Novato School District, Marin County Public Library, the Marin County Office of Education, the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, Maker-Ed, The Buck Institute, and Autodesk, just to start with. Holy Guacamole!

This group is going to call this improved facility the Community Education Center (CEC) and it includes three buildings – the Maker Lab, the Novato Unified School District Media Center and the South Novato Library – all set on beautiful grounds, abundant parking, trees, outdoor hangout areas and much more.

The Open House festivity is scheduled for January 29th and 30th the time is TBD and shall be in all three buildings. Classes will start the 1st week of the New Year, times and dates TBD.

The Makerspace Lab shall be a unique public community MAKER space for students, teachers and families developing projects and lessons to be distributed through Novato schools and within each of the 13 outlets of the Marin County Public Libraries. The new library at the CEC was just built. John envisions expanding into a larger space across the street within two years.

All of the CEC’s Programs are meant to create more opportunities for all young people to develop confidence, creativity, and interest in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) and learning as a whole through making. The activities are meant to encourage community engagement with adults and families in a fun active place for collaborative work. There are seven program areas: The Intel Computer Clubhouse (focused on collaborative media production, social media, technology and content creation and curation), Making in the Classroom (which includes woodworking, metallurgy, sowing, fashion design and more), Adult Education, MCOE Regional Occupation Programs, Independent Study Sessions, Special Education Sessions and Family & Community Events.

For clarity, here’s some background on each of the CEC Groups…

New Media Learning and the Marin County of Education shall provide innovative, collaborative educational programs for the youth in Marin County. New Media Learning programs are based on access, media and technology. They provide engaging learning environments which foster collaboration for playing and creating at the Intel Computer Clubhouse. They’ve also built a very interactive social-networked style environment for youth to share media face to face, through the web, and across devices, through the creation of programming and shows, as well as via their teen publication called “Fastforward.” These students are part of the Young Makers and MAKER.ED Initiative, which has the mission to create more opportunities for all young people to develop leadership, confidence, creativity, and interest in science, technology, engineering, math, art, and learning as a whole through making.

The Intel Clubhouse Network is a project of the Museum of Science, Boston in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, and is excited about operating after-school programs for youth.

The CEC will make use of NML and the Intel Clubhouse’s high quality computers, 3D printers, word working, metallurgy, textiles and sowing and are expanding this year into using laser cutters. This past Bioneers, this group of students produced the videos for the conference and the web sharing their work with 100s of 1000s of viewers.

Making In The Classroom is a collaborative effort among Maker Educators and Teachers in the Novato Unified School District to bring hands on, project-based learning to students and professional development to teachers.

This Making in the Classroom is considered a pilot project and shall present Maker lessons that satisfy California Common Core requirements and Next Generation Science Standards (as they become applicable). Maker lessons emphasize seeking innovative solutions to problems, using materials in unique ways, and preparing children for an ever-changing learning environment. Project times would include school day trips and after-school activities 3:30 – 6 pm, Monday – Friday.

After 6pm and on Weekends, the CEC will provide an Adult Education program to retrain adults to learn the technology and skills needed to be active members in a society based on 21st century skills of communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity.

The Marin ROP Media Center as part of the MCOE Regional Occupation Program will have classes which allow high school students to earn high school credits, as well as articulating class work for community college credit. The curriculum will follow the STEM-A (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math through Art) as its model. Each class is required to have an industry approved advisory committee for feedback on industry standards and employer expectations. These classes run Monday- Friday afternoons.

John has also developed individualized (Independent Study) for STEAM and MEDIA learning for self-motivated and self-directed students in a project-based learning environment for high school students. These programs are scheduled throughout the week based on the individual students needs.

And on specific weekdays (TBD), the CEC is also offering Special Education STEAM and MEDIA classes for youth with leaning differences.

Finally, the CEC will have fun Family & Community Events on select evenings and weekends.

As the Community Education Center is just forming this truly innovative cross-sector educational startup, please consider contacting John MacLeod at to get involved.