Knight Memorial Library- This student sewed a pillow and made a bed for her dolls.

What is your role, and why do you like working at FabNewport?

My name is Josie Michaud. My title is officially Director of Instruction, so I am both an instructor and help with curriculum development. I like working at FabNewport because it allows me to build healthy, long term relationships with students in a playful learning environment. I get to meet students when they first come to us and help them explore their interests. As their interests become more focused, I can tailor activities, skill-building, and workshops depending on their passions and needs. I can really customize the curriculum to suit the folks I work with. I also really like how maker-centered-learning, a foundational approach at the lab, honors the many different ways students can learn and show understanding beyond just writing. In particular, creative endeavors such as computer programming, traditional crafts, and the arts provide alternative forms of expression and understanding.

What have you learned about yourself, the community, and anything else?

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my community through my work with FabNewport. For myself, it brought me back to my roots as a maker. I was a good student, but I really shined in art classes (drawing, painting, calligraphy), home economics (sewing and cooking) and crafts (metal work, wood working, stained glass, leather working). These were all classes offered when I was in public school but have since been defunded. I really looked forward to these classes and it made me excited to go to school. Now I get to do this for my job as well as learning new maker skills! Since working at FabNewport, I’ve been trained to teach computer science and have come to the realization that computer science, specifically computer programming, is a powerful and creative means of expression.

I’ve also learned a lot about our community. FabNewport is located on the North End and I’m lucky to work in this neighborhood setting where the same students have been coming to us for many years. We also draw students in from other parts of Newport and Aquidneck Island and have programs in Providence as well. Although students are coming to us from many different backgrounds, one message is clear- students and their families want to be treated fairly and with respect. They want wrongs to be righted and they want reform in our school systems and in the larger society. They want a voice.

What are you doing right now to improve your work? 

Right now, the most important adjustment to my work is adapting to teaching in the time of Covid. All of my classes are hybrid so I’m teaching in person and online at the same time. This is tricky logistically and involves a lot of preparation time. There are also issues with sharing equipment and materials and collaboration in general. It’s going to take some time and a lot of trial and error. I’ve created individualized learning plans and websites for all my students to help them keep track of their work. It would be difficult to individualize instruction so much using tools like Google Classroom. Student websites will also make it easier for me to be better about sharing student work, one goal I set for myself this school year.

How do you see the school system improving with the work we do?

The school system was already tasked with being everything to everybody. Now we have COVID and they have to deal with that as well. We’ve had wonderful partnerships with the schools in the past and are currently collaborating with Newport Public Schools and community partners to extend learning into the broader community. We’d like to create a robust program for Place-Based Education, making learning fun for students and rooted in our community. It’s important for students to know what stewardship means and how they can contribute and become the next generation of community leaders. This is a win for all- the school system, students, and the community.