The next up-and-coming expansion to the educational arena is makerspace.
What is makerspace, you may ask?
A makerspace is a collaborative workspace inside a school, library, or separate public/private facility for creating, learning, exploring, and sharing. Makerspaces usually provide tools and space for creating products in a school or community environment. Expert advisors may be available some of the time, but often novices get help from other users.
Makerspaces enable students to design, prototype, and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These centers provide the ultimate workshop for students to learn how to build, program, and put together most anything you can relate to in your curriculum. They support learning in an informal, play-focused environment that can cultivate an interest in science, technology, and design.
According to Adam Kemp (Makerspace in the Classroom), most classrooms integrate the idea of a “lab” or “activity” that takes the students away from the books and requires them to apply the concept in a physical manner. This allocated time promotes learning through play; has the potential to demystify science, math, technology, and engineering; and encourages students, especially females, to seek careers in those fields.
Don’t let the word “play” turn your thoughts. From toddlers to adults, building with building blocks, putting together a robot, or learning how to sew a costume, all are lessons needed in the adult world. There are fewer graduates going into mechanics and basic technology, and these hands-on makerspaces can give a glimpse into those worlds, introducing the world of math, logical thinking, and planning in a more practical way.
Another great point — you don’t need a STEM lab to create makerspace. The beauty of the maker movement is that there is no set list of equipment or programming required to make a space successful. There are some tools and technology typically associated with makerspaces (like 3-D printers), but they are not required. Eventually the list of equipment and materials grows as specific projects and programs generate new needs.
Diana Rendina, a middle school media specialist/teacher librarian writing for Knowledge Quest states, “If you’ve got a classroom available to turn into a tricked-out STEM lab, go for it. But don’t do that instead of creating a library makerspace, do it in addition to a library makerspace. The problem with creating a closed-off space is that it severely limits student access. Not every student will have a teacher who will take them to the STEM lab. Many students who are in lower-level classes might never get access. On the other hand, every student has access to the library. Visiting the library is not contingent on a student being in an advanced science elective or having stellar grades. By having a makerspace in the library, EVERY student at school can have the opportunity to use it and learn and grow.”
Supplies such as cardboard, plastic, metal, gears, wood, and batteries may be on hand, and available tools may include anything from a welding machine to a laser cutter. Working with the community, makerspaces can utilize products from local companies or individuals with skills not taught in regular schools.
There are many resources online to help you get your makerspace off the ground. Makerspace for Education (https://goo.gl/Di6bRB) offers a number of resource books that can guide you into making and maintaining makerspaces. How to Turn Any Classroom Into a Makerspace (https://goo.gl/RQxqNO) has a number of ideas to get you started. How to Build Your Workspace (https://goo.gl/kFq9Ph) has an entire list of product ideas and links to others who have first-hand knowledge about this new curriculum. And Starting A Makerspace? (https://goo.gl/N7j1aV) has great ideas for starting a space, including a downloadable PDF guide.
Makerspaces are the next step in the evolution of the classroom. Learning how to work together to build things is mandatory for the next generation. Not every school will have the means to start a stand-alone makerspace, but that’s where your community can get involved. There are plenty of ideas, incentives, and ways to turn what you already have into a learning space for the future.
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