Late to the makerspace party? It’s ok, there’s still time.
The creation and utilization of makerspaces in schools has been and still is an emerging trend. In 2015 makerspaces were identified as an important development in educational technology for K-12 education. (NMC Horizon Report, 2015). But why? Makerspaces allow for students to physically interact with materials to construct a product that allows them to express, display and explain their ideas.
Makerspaces build skills necessary for students to become problem solvers and critical thinkers.
If you’re already here you probably know how beneficial makerspaces are so I won’t go into detail. Students love to tinker and build, it comes natural. Throw a pile of blocks, legos, K’NEX on a table and see how many students start making something without instruction. My wife (@MrsAnthonyOES – Mrs. Anthony, third grade teacher) recently discovered the benefits of implementing a “maker movement” when she needed to fill some time with students due to other students pulled. She didn’t want to continue with instruction while many students would miss the lesson. She looked around for materials and found old math manipulatives, gave piles to students and let them build anything they wanted. What happened turned my wife from a “maker-hater” into a “maker-believer” (Update: She claims she really wasn’t a “maker-hater” just “ill-experienced” to the maker movement). Students were immediately engaged and started building different things. Some students made landscapes with trees and other objects, some built towers grouped by colors, one even ditched the blocks and made a fidget spinner out of paper! She was amazed at how effortlessly they created and problem-solved. She also was amazed at how little behavioral issues she had for such an “unstructured” time.
From Large Spaces to a Mobile Maker Cart
Makerspaces have this reputation of being large spaces, usually placed in a library, that contains 3D-printers, laser cutters, CNC routers, etc. While these are great spaces, they’re not the only way to bring a maker culture to your students. You don’t need a 3D printer or laser cutter to have a makerspace. You don’t even need a space in your room. However, if you don’t have space, make space. And you if can’t make space, that’s ok, but still not an excuse. How about a maker cart?
No-Tech for Makerspaces – Arts & Crafts on Steroids
Here is a list that contains many items that will help produce a maker environment. Many of these items can be found in basements and attics of those individuals saving random stuff with the “We could use this again someday” mindset. (aka my mom).
It should be noted that many people group STEM activities (such as robotics, coding, etc) in makerspaces. Although STEM materials can definitely contribute to makerspaces, you can still harness maker activities without them.
Where STEM and Makerspaces Meet
This is where it gets interesting. Maker projects 2.0 – this is where you can combine STEM toys such as robotics and circuits to take these maker projects to the next level. For example – a cardboard shelter for an Ozobot (lower left) to live in (coded to enter and exit the home), armor for a sphero that allows it to move or pull a load, a new invention made up cardboard and Littlebits, an arcade game controlled with Makey Makey and coded in scratch. When maker materials and STEM tools are present your options are limitless.