You’ve heard about makerspaces, but aren’t quite sure what they are or how they will impact learning. Here you will learn what a makerspace is, how to begin working in a makerspace, tips for starting a makerspace in your school, and lastly how to create building-wide buy-in of your makerspace.
What is a makerspace?
Like an artist’s studio, makerspaces are excellent places for exploring & discovering new ideas. They are dedicated areas for creating, building and developing ideas and projects. It is a safe space to try something new and continue to improve on ideas. Makerspaces help students find their passions through design thinking. Research has found that creating is one of the best ways to learn and makerspaces provide the tools and experiences to help people to create their ideas.
How to begin working in a maker space?
- Start with the idea that you are curious about and brainstorm solutions.
- You might consider solutions that might be helpful to others.
- Use technology, or don’t use it. Just tinker with any and all resources to make your ideas a reality. You do not need to use technology to create a makerspace, but often makerspaces do include technology. Here are some examples of what you can do with and without technology.
(High-tech) You can create a program, or create with circuits and motors.
(Low-tech) You can build with cardboard, wood, fabric, polymer clay and found objects.
Low-tech is ideal for prototypes or first draft ideas.
- Your learning will happen because as a maker you will learn directly from problem-solving, and you will also learn without a set of premade or standardized directions.
- You will use design thinking to come up with an initial idea, then iterate upon it until it is finally ready to share your idea or process with others.
- You do not have to follow a set of directions, but with so many available opportunities to learn from, it is ok to research viable instructional or how-to options via books and the internet.
- You do not have to THINK you are smart, creative, great at math or anything else to try something new. When you are in a makerspace, you get to think up new ideas or skills and combine them with what you already know to design a solution. Once you have the solution, you will continually improve upon it until it is the best it can be and it’s ready to share.
- Some spaces use design challenges to spark ideas and inspire makers to find a solution. So if you are not sure where to start, try a design challenge. You can find many design challenges by searching for examples online.
Why should you create a makerspace in your school?
When teachers implement makerspaces and maker opportunities, it adds to a depth of learning and encourages the mindset of a maker. It provides the opportunity for ALL students to explore their ideas in a hands-on way during the school day. Makerspaces help cultivate creativity and the genius inside of your students. When you have a makerspace, you will naturally embed the 4 C’s of the common core: Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity, and Collaboration. There will be tons of learning and even more fun for your students. You will spend more time empowering your students and less time managing their behavior.
Advice for teachers starting a makerspace:
- There are a lot of resources and materials, so focus your energy and don’t feel like you have to implement it all at once. Choose one thing or one challenge, to begin with, and consider how you can get students at the center of their learning.
- You will need a mind shift and a belief that making is critical to developing learners so that they can use problem-solving and the creative process to make their dreams come true. Knowing that these students will become the designers/creators/innovators that have the capacity to solve real world problems now and in the future. You will be developing innovators. This process will likely be messy and knowing that you are doing something crucial will be a foundation that you may need to rely on until you become fully comfortable with the process.
- Offer design challenges, so students can begin to take risks and begin creating solutions.
- Allow students the opportunity to find their solutions without providing answers. Instead of providing solutions think about how you can help students facilitate their independent learning.
- Encourage students to work together and use their collective knowledge.
- You can provide opportunities for students at all grade levels. The more opportunities students have, the more they will develop the confidence to tackle more complex challenges.
- Know that some things are going to be highly successful and others are going to fail. Don’t be discouraged, learn from the mistakes and do better next time.
- Ask for donations for consumable items like fabric, cardboard, glue sticks, popsicle sticks, & pipe cleaners.
- When beginning with a brand new space, you might want to consider having students design, build and develop their makerspace with limited tools as an initial challenge. The idea is to empower students to make this space their own.
- You will want to consider options for storage for your supplies and make sure they are accessible for students to access as needed.
- You will also need a space to store the projects that are in the building process and are not yet complete.
Questions for teachers to ask students while working in the makerspace.
- What would you change about it?
- What was your biggest challenge?
- Can you explain how ____ affected ____?
- How would you apply what you learned to develop ____?
- How would you compare ____? Contrast_____?
- How are____alike? Different?
- What steps are needed to edit___?
- When would you use an outline to ___?
- How would you estimate___?
- How could you organize___?
- What do you notice about___?
- What conclusions can you draw _____?
- How would you adapt____to create a different____?
- How would you test____?
- Can you predict the outcome if____?
- What is the best answer? Why?
- What conclusion can be drawn from this ____?
- How would you describe the sequence of____?
- What facts would you select to support____?
- Can you elaborate on the reason____?
- What would happen if___?
- Can you formulate a theory for___?
- How would you test___?
Advancing building buy-in of a makerspace
I suggest that you gather teachers together and allow them to participate in a design challenge. As a facilitator, you’ll want to link the challenge to a standard they teach. For example, you might tie it to learning about simple machines and charge them to help make the school more accessible to students with disabilities by utilizing a simple machine. They will use the design process to identify a problem, design a solution, build it, test it, and share what they learned and created. They will have fun, be creative as well as realize that makerspaces are excellent places to learn. Makerspaces have no age limitations, and everyone can enjoy tinkering.
I hope this post helped you understand what a makerspace is and why they are beneficial to learning. What questions do you still have about makerspaces? Do you have experiences with a makerspace that you’d like to share? What advice would you add for someone who’s considering a makerspace for their school or class? Feel free to leave a comment below.