February 27, 2019
Contributor: Dr. Sharlene
What is a Makerspace?
Makerspaces are problem-solving and solution-oriented renovated learning spaces where a culture of collaboration and creativity are flourishing. Hackerspaces are geared more toward technology, digital art, or the sciences, whereas Fablabs focus on the fabrication within electronics. This blog is going to focus on Makerspaces, which tend to be the most classroom friendly. Open-ended discovery occurs here and students own their learning by creating a product in a collaborative environment.
Why Would I Want to do This…
Sounds Like a lot of Work!
Because we don’t want our students to turn out to be technologically mesmerized zombies! Get the fun, creative, and invention juices surging by presenting student-centered and inquiry-based activities!
Students are more engaged in their learning when they obtain a deeper understanding of the content hands-on involvement and creativity. There is no set formula to doing it right or wrong not to mention it delivers a great way to not be the Sage on the Stage. You are in the process of preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist. Makerspaces get the wheels turning.
What does Makerspace Look Like in the Classroom?
This is where you are creative and innovative. There are not set forms or outlines to follow, this is strictly transforming a space into a zone for inquiring pedagogical purposes. Every classroom or makerspace is going to look and feel different. Embrace that! Don’t be afraid to transform a physical space into an exciting learning opportunity full of widgets and creativity.
Also, keep in mind libraries are an ideal space. Evolution from traditional books and content collections to creative and inspiring thought spaces are being transformed across the country. Not to mention that most librarians would love to be engaged in student learning and offer imaginative ideas.
What do I need for my classroom?
YOUR makerspace project is to make a Makerspace! To start, an open mind and willingness to take an adventure. You could be thinking of a physical project, a digital project, or designing an event. Check out the Makerspaces for each grade level in the Educators Only Source site (see picture below to navigate to specific grade level locations).
Examples of Lessons
The easiest examples might come from the STEM lessons or projects used in 4-H to solve a problem. Come up with environmental solutions like designing water filters or water drainage options for low flood plains or third world countries. Design bridges that are erosion proof. Create firewood carriers for senior citizens that need to keep their house warm. Design roller coasters, build tiny houses, or bring in technology by adding coding. You can even find a use for recyclable materials such as making a wallet out of wrappers and duct tape that kids can take home.
To make projects more challenging, pose a question and have them research a solution, then build a model of the solution. You can also limit the materials to empower students to become more creative. Your goal is to get them to think outside of the box.
What Does it Look Like for Elementary? Middle? Secondary?
The concept is the same, the look is different. Elementary students are likely to have a shorter attention span and be excited about using their creativity to build something that mimics a city, or has to do with pretending to be an adult. For example, a unit on community in 1st grade could have a makerspace that has an area to play act different roles members take in the community such as mayor, teacher, mail carrier, etc. The same classroom might have a designated area where students can build different things needed in the community from recyclable materials you bring in. They can write and draw, or even build their own city together so share with their friends.
How do I Start, Manage, and End?
You are going to be a “Makerspacer” of a Makerspace!
Phase I: Find a space. It can be a corner of the room, or the whole classroom. Start with just one project everyone does to make it easy. Remember, it is ok to start small and this doesn’t need to be anything fancy.
Phase II: You have a creative space, not an expensive space. Think of MacGyver. He used to create solutions out of very few items. Legos, duct tape, string, boxes, paper cups, online geocaching searches, etc. are perfect places to start!
Need some online resources to get started? Check out EOS activities for each subject area by grade (home link here)
Phase III: Give them time to plan. For some, this means thinking quietly, and for others brainstorming with each other. Have students draft out a plan. Don’t forget to build in a reflective time so they can pause and make sure what they are building is still going in the right direction and not off on a tangent.
Issues to Watch Out for:
- You don’t need a huge grant to get started. Use household items, recyclables, consumable goods in the classroom like paper and tape.
- The makerspace will have few rules. However, the few rules must be followed. Get your students involved with making the rules associated with makerspaces so they own them. Write the rules and display them in a visible location.
- Set expectations. Not only communicate clear expectations with students about outcomes of the project, but it is important to establish behavioral expectations as well. Establish guidelines and protocols. Create an environment where students feel comfortable taking risks in their creativity. This isn’t recess or goof off time.
- Establish clear clean up rules and where and how to store projects for next time.
- Be mindful of the ratio of boys to girls in groups. It is important that everyone feels comfortable rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in the engineering and leading groups.
If you are really excited about students creating innovative ideas, there are local, state, and international Maker Faires to feature all the revolutionary projects.
If you would like to share your awesome Makerspaces, feel free to leave comments below. Be sure to follow and share this blog on Educators Only Source Facebook!
Dr. Sharlene has been an educator for 16 years and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and a C.A.G.S. in Educational Administration. She was a secondary classroom teacher for seven years and became a 5-12 Science Department Head for the last three years as a teacher. As an educator, she received prestigious state and national awards including the National Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Award, and the Mass BioTech Grant. She is presently a district-wide PreK-12 administrator in the high performing State of Massachusetts (9 years) and has focused a lot of time on elementary education.