Makerspace Part 1 — Mental Prep

Thinking about turning classroom space into Makerspace?

Last October we touched on the generalities of Makerspace. A makerspace is a collaborative workspace inside a school, library, or separate public/private facility for creating, learning, exploring, and sharing. We explained what Makerspace is in general terms, just enough to get you interested. Now you are seriously thinking that Makerspace may be right for you.

Before you do any deep research, you might want to consider a few things before you start. EdSurge suggests six things to work and think through before you start. The more you know the answers, the easier it will be to explain it to administrators and board members.

List the hopes, dreams and ideas you and others have for the space.

Be sure to include stakeholders such as parents, board members, administration and other members of the community. How often will you conduct your class? If in a community setting, will others share the room on different days?

Define the skills, knowledge and habits that kids will learn or develop in your space.

Then describe what and how the space will help kids develop these skills. How are you going to teach the projects? If you want students to be competent on all the tools in the space, how are you going to teach and assess this competence?

Define the culture for the space.

How will people behave in the space and how will those standards be communicated? How will you deal with safety around tools? How will you teach in the space and will it be different from other classes? How will you encourage and perhaps even celebrate failure?

Based on the culture and the desired skills, knowledge and abilities, determine appropriate integration points in the rest of your curriculum and the life of the school. 

Sometimes this is as easy as working with the most (or least) enthusiastic teachers. Math and science are fairly straightforward to integrate into a makerspace, but there are many integration points in history, social sciences and art. STEAM curriculums are perfect for makerspace projects. Where are you going to start?

Based on your integration points, define the arc of the year and the projects you are going to include. 

For example, if your kids have never held a hammer or turned a wrench, it might make sense to start with simple skill builders before you get to Arduino robots and electric cars. When you pick the projects, consider how you’re going to teach them.

Design your space and pick the tools based on the decisions above.

When designing the space, remember to consider power requirements, guidelines for safety, restricted areas around tools, and which zone needs eye and ear protection. Make sure to include workspace for teams and set aside 30% of the room for project storage. As you think about tools, remember that magic of making can start with hot glue guns, string, soda bottles, soldering irons, hammers, nails and other very inexpensive equipment. Don’t be tempted by the fancy CNC and laser cutters if you don’t need them. Just taking apart a blender offers a wealth of learning opportunities.

Once you figured out the background reasoning, it’s time to write your philosophy of what you hope to achieve. Symour Papert, founder of the Constructionist Learning Lab, had eight big ideas that were crucial to the undertaking of this type of teaching and learning.

Learn by doing. Experimentation is the best teacher.

Technology as building material – if you can use technology to make things you can make more interesting things.

Have fun – we learn and work best if we enjoy what we are doing.

Learning to learn – nobody can teach you everything you need to know. You have to take charge of your own learning.

Taking time – you have to learn to manage time for yourself

Do unto ourselves what we do unto our students – let students see us struggle to learn.

Entering a digital world – learning about computers is important, but using them to learn about everything else is important too.

Preparing for this big undertaking will be a task, but the rewards in the end will be rewarding. Students will learn how to take apart and put back together objects, make videos, use their reasoning to build things that move, and get their creative streak working to draw, design, and build their own project.


Next week: Propose and Start

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