Makerspace is a buzz word in education right now.
A Makerspace is a flexible learning environment where learners can connect, create, collaborate, communicate and potentially explore the elements of a newly integrated area, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) through experiential play.
These zones promote learning and creativity through play and can be easily created in a classroom, a library or anywhere really.
“You don’t need a room of resources. Every classroom should be a Makerspace and you don’t need thousands of dollars spent to set it up,” said learning experience designer Zeina Chalich.
“It could be as simple as a Tinkering table in the corner or finding ways to integrate new technology into projects you are doing.
“It’s really about flexible learning environments that are categorised by the passions of the kids you are teaching.
“The important idea is that it is a place that can be used for a range of activities with changing and flexible educational goals and creative purposes.
“Facilitate informal learning opportunities where connections between home, school, and community are enabled and encouraged. Develop a culture of creating as opposed to consuming,” she said.
We asked Ms Chalich for some simple steps to setting up a Makerspace.
1) Makerspace culture
First, establish a vision for learning in your Makerspace What is the dream or aim for this space? Identify what skills and knowledge you want your students to develop here as this will shape the culture of your Makerspace. Remember, failing up and learning by doing are key to a Makerspace.
2) Learning in a Makerspace
Invite expert guest speakers or mentors into the Makerspace support student learning. People such as architects or inventors can talk to the kids and give them real-life examples of how their work is developed through critical thinking and creativity. It is also a chance for students to use real-life tools that experts use in their everyday jobs.
Purpose: It is important to give students a good project with purpose and relevance to engage them to invest time, effort and creativity. Finding topics they are passionate about is important and providing a prompt or provocation to spark their interest helps. ‘Making for Good’ is one way to spark a project, providing students with different real world problem scenarios to help them develop empathy and identify a problem to solve.
Students also need time to develop the ideas, tinker with new technology and test ideas. Project based learning is an effective way for students to learn in a makerspace. An effective way to do this is to incorporate ‘making’ within the curriculum so that students are learning by doing across all key learning areas. For example, students could recreate a scene from a novel using playdoh and an animation app using a HP tablet, or they can create this using Scratch online coding website.
An alternative could be some design challenge sprints where students are given a design challenge with limited time to respond to — this is also effective for students to develop toolset skills for making.
Peers: making is a social learning process and works best when we can build on the ideas and concepts with others, coding for example is done best when you have a friend test your lines of code to identify areas for improvement, we also learn best from our peers and can tap into each other’s skills and areas of expertise
3) Flexible learning space
Identify a flexible learning space that allows for collaboration, a range of seating options — high top desks/stools and easy access to tools for organisation and power points. In classrooms people might call these Pop Up makerspaces or Tinker tables or a design lab.
4) Tools and technology and resources
Provide students with a range of low tech and hi-tech resources to support the learning in this space, having containers with suitable labels helps for easy access and to allow students to explore the range of resources available.
Low tech tools includes: cardboard, Playdoh, Lego, old toys, craft supplies, blocks, paint, and Post-It notes.
Hi-tech: HP laptops, chromebooks, Makey Makey invention kits, robotics, electronics, squishy circuits, arduinos, LED lights, 3D printer such as a Sprout.
5) Be social
Share your learning with the world. Global educators and learners share learning with an authentic audience to inspire others and receive feedback. This can be done my filming the maker project and uploading to Youtube, blogging on a school website, sharing tweets via Twitter using #makerEDau or on Instagram. Invite others students and parents to a school Maker Fair to showcase the students’ learning.