Creating a Makerspace in Schools
Part 2 of a 5-part blog series exploring the topic of makerspaces in education. Click here to read part 1 Makerspaces: An Important Component of 21st Century Education
Our first blog post in this series covered the history and benefits of makerspaces in education. But, even if you’re bought into the idea, successfully launching a school makerspace requires thought and planning.
Seymour Papert, the founder of the Constructionist Learning Lab had 8 big ideas for makerspace learning to succeed.
- Learn by doing
- Technology as building material
- Hard fun
- Learning to learn
- Taking time
- You can’t get it right without getting it wrong
- Do unto ourselves what we do unto our students
- Digital world
But, how can you build a makerspace in your school if you haven’t experienced one? A great way to learn about makerspaces and get ideas is to join or visit one. If you Google ‘makerspaces near me’ you should find a variety of options. Or, talk to other educators in your area about visiting their space.
Defining Makerspaces by Age
One big difference between professional makerspaces and the ones in the classroom, is the need to create an age appropriate space.
Makerspaces in Elementary School
With students at this age, encouraging hands on creativity through low-tech options is important. Tablets may be included in the space, but building and art supplies such as cubes, paper and LEGOs https://education.lego.com/en-us help inspire students to build and create. Students can work independently or on a team design challenge project.
Makerspaces in Middle School
At this age, students can begin solving real-world problems with interdisciplinary skills. Whether your supplies are low-tech or high-tech, educators should be thinking about presenting small teams with a real problem that needs an innovative solution.
Makerspaces in High School
By high school, students can be working independently and in teams with a focus on their interests and assignments. While technology such as CNC machines, 3D printers and computers are helpful, they are still not imperative. The focus is on higher-level problem solving through creativity, design and innovation.
Makerspaces in Higher Education
Makerspaces can be a way for college students to practice the complex theories that they learn in the classroom. They have also been known to not only prepare students for the workforce, but to actually create new business ideas.
Plan Your Makerspace Before You Build
Once you get an in-person idea of what makerspaces are all about it is important to plan before you create your own. Ask yourself:
- What space can we use and does our makerspace need to be mobile?
In new school buildings, areas for makerspaces have often been considered and built into the plans. However, in older schools, identifying space(s) is important and may determine the types of activities that you can offer. Makerspaces often start small with a single classroom. However, they often quickly grow to multiple classrooms and/or eventually a large space, like the library or media commons. It is also important to note that one of the drivers to secure mobile solutions is equitable access. Having the ability to build a “pop up” Maker Space anywhere within the school, creates learning opportunity for all.
- Who are the kids using the space and when will they be using it?
Determining what age range of students will be using the space is an important part of your planning. Also, often times these spaces have interest from outside clubs that would like to use the space after school or for a special event.
- What is our budget?
Contrary to popular belief, makerspaces do not have to cost a lot (or anything). INFOhio’s MaKit can help you think through planning, promotion and maker lessons and activities whether you have $0 or much more. There is even an excellent flow chart called So You Want to Start a Makerspace? Start Here!
- How will I make time for this makerspace?
Many educators struggle to understand when makerspaces should be incorporated into their day. There are two ways to approach this. Some educators choose to make makerspace time a part of their lesson plan for a specific class or time of the day. Others choose to have makerspaces available to students as part of the student’s free time (eg. free period, lunch, recess, or assignment completion). It is up to the teacher or school to determine what would be the best approach for their students.
- What expertise do we need for this makerspace?
This is entirely dependent on what type of makerspace you decide to implement. For low-tech / no tech makerspaces, the answer may be none. However, if your goal is to introduce your students to technology a knowledge of the technology (3D printing, robotics or coding) is important. The answer to this and your ability to staff it, may help determine the next question.
- What types of activities will we offer?
Makerspaces don’t have to be expensive, or even use digital technology. According to ebsco.com, “Your space can have high-tech resources like LittleBits, Arduino, Lego robotics, 3D printers, Raspberry Pi, Hummingbird kits, or Sphero. Or it can be low-tech with Makedo kits, Sugru, Duct tape crafts, cardboard guitar making, scrapbooking, or making items from old books. Or you can tear apart old/broken technology like computers or printers to have a deconstruction day to learn how these items work. (But be sure to keep the spare parts for other maker projects like Frankentoys).”
- How do we make sure students are actually learning?
While makerspaces embrace the idea of learning through failure, educators are often concerned that students are just making a mess without learning. Asking students, at an age appropriate level, to share a plan with you, is a good way to ensure that their idea is well thought out. Teachers can use the planning stage to help coach their students to consider new ideas before they start to work. Also, posters or signs with rules, just like in an active classroom, can help keep the space calm and focused.
Once you’re answered the above questions and decide that you do indeed want to incorporate makerspaces into your school or district, you now have a clear picture of the types of materials, budget and space you will need to get your makerspace started.
Now let’s get to “Making”!