Become a Makerspace Rock Star While Saving Time and Money
You are a progressive, cutting-edge classroom teacher who knows the benefits of project-based learning and how it incorporates both critical thinking skills and 21st century learning. You have been reading about a trending idea to meet the needs of today’s learners: a makerspace.
This concept has been around for a few years, but there are multiple reasons why it can be difficult to implement in a classroom setting and more commonly seen in larger, more open spaces like a library. Because of these obstacles, it may be something you hesitate to get moving on in your classroom.
First, let’s define more specifically what we are talking about. A makerspace is an educational area that allows students to make and create, incorporating some technology and a DIY attitude toward making and learning. Typically the curriculum revolves around planning, design, engineering, science, and math. This project-based approach to learning is cross-curricular, provides collaborative learning, and should involve deeper thinking and questioning on the part of the teacher. Here is a broad reflective list from one of the experts in the field for what to think about as you get started.
Here are some of the factors to consider—and how you can hack them to make it cheap, quick, and easy for your classroom:
- Space: Physical space is probably the number one obstacle for getting a makerspace started in the classroom.
- Option 1: Find a different location. Many schools are at full capacity, but even if there is a smaller conference room or lab, it can work for a designated makerspace.
- Option 2: Find a large space and make it flexible. Most cafeterias are not used during the school day, unless they double as a gym. Think about using shelves on wheels or cabinets to maximize use during the morning and afternoon hours.
- Option 3: Make it work in your own classroom. The issue is typically a crowded classroom full of desks or tables. Makerspace projects also lend themselves to being a little messy and needing a wide variety of supplies. If nothing else, maybe the classroom can be converted one day a week or for one week a month to make the makerspace vision take hold.
- Supplies: This is the next obstacle for the teacher—where to find supplies. The best makerspace classrooms have a wide ranging variety of items to use to build, attach, and assemble.
- Consumables can be an ongoing expense, so it is important to have a plan. Glue, tape, and fasteners of all kinds will be consumed quickly, so plan for parents or parent organizations to replenish the supply.
- For the bigger consumable stuff—cardboard, hardware, wood, plastic, and the like—contact local businesses. These places often have materials they are ready to throw away that can be used in your makerspace.
- Finally, for the fixed materials like tools and technology, the building or district must support the plan. Any measuring devices or pieces of hardware, like saws and drills, should all be approved above the building level. It is possible for younger students to create a makerspace without this kind of heavier equipment, but keep this in mind when planning the projects.
- Organization: This step probably comes after the supplies and space are finalized, but it is a key step in the planning process.
- Students need materials available. This means that there has to be shelves, cubbies, tubs, or some sort of organization to the space. In order for students to really think critically about their project, they need to know about all the tools that are available for them to use.
- Flow of the classroom should be considered, too. The supplies need to be spread out and displayed well enough for all students to access and use in a safe and appropriate manner.
- Schedule: It is easier to get something like this started it if isn’t a single teacher leading the charge. If there is a team effort, then scheduling the space will be an important step in the process. This will all hinge on the “space” decision mentioned earlier, but if it is shared space, then a shared schedule and even shared planning will be important. It is much more efficient to work on the same types of projects at the same time so materials can be more easily shared. It is also helpful to have the students see the other students’ thinking and learning through their projects displayed around the space.
- Buy In: From students to parents to administrators, it is critical to remember to include all parties in the process. When it comes to gathering supplies or providing curriculum and technology, all stakeholders need to have a feeling of inclusion and support to get the makerspace off the ground.
These are just a few ideas to prime the mental pump for getting something going in your classroom. There are many logistics to consider, but jumping in feet-first is a good approach, too. Ready to get started on your own makerspace? Check out our previous how-to blog, or click here to read more about the movement.