Over the past couple of months I have been interacting with many teachers who are asking about makerspaces. Educators, administrators, students, and parents are hearing the terms ‘makerspace’ and ‘makers’ more and more and wondering exactly what that means as well as how it impacts the learning environment. If you are also curious then you have come to the right place! The following will explain what you need to know about makerspaces and the making movement as well as give you some ideas and resources to get started with a basic makerspace in your classroom!
With summer rapidly approaching (or already here for some districts) now is the perfect time to learn more about makerspaces, the concept of making and what it means to be a maker. It is the perfect time to discover how you can incorporate these ideas into your classroom starting as early as next school year! So what exactly is a makerspace and a maker? Quite simply, a makerspace is a physical space that inspires creation and innovative problem solving and a maker is a person who uses that space to create! Making encourages problem solving, incorporates learning how to use particular tools and techniques, and fosters teamwork among group activities in order to build something that solves a problem. At its core, making is a great technique for students to learn how to learn with hands on activities.
So how can you create this sort of environment in your classroom knowing that a great makerspace has all the necessary tools and materials to act on creative ideas? What sorts of tools and materials would make for a great makerspace in a classroom? The truth is the materials and tools can run the gambit from basic classroom supplies all the way to advanced power tools and electronics. However, for now we are going to focus on some necessities for a starter level makerspace and a follow up blog will cover some of the more advanced materials.
Things like power tools and wood might be available in high school shop class (if that’s even offered) but likely not in an elementary classroom or starter level makerspace. That does not mean you cannot build a great starter makerspace in your elementary classroom! We can get very creative with considerations such as cardboard being a fantastic substitute for wood. It is important to note that many schools and educators are applying for grants in order to pay for supplies and technologies they want to incorporate in their makerspaces. However, we stress that you don’t have to have a grant to get a makerspace started!
I always like to start by reaching out to families and the community and asking for donations - it never hurts to ask! Here is a material request you can share with families or post to social media if you are interested in trying to build a makerspace for your classroom. Also, I love utilizing stores such as the Dollar Tree or Goodwill when hoping to find some affordable items and bins for my classroom. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to business owners and ask for any donations they might be willing to offer. You might be surprised how a simple request for help will lead to a great start to your makerspace, especially with the current momentum behind STEM learning and technologies in the learning environment! Happy making!