Makerspace 101 Guide

Makerspaces

Have you heard of Makerspaces? They are certainly gaining momentum in schools and libraries around the world yet in my day to day interactions I’m finding the term ‘makerspace’ to be a relatively unknown concept. Doing my part to change that! Let’s take a moment to explore what Makerspaces are all about in this quick ‘Makerspace 101 Guide’!

What is a Makerspace?

A makerspace is a place where people can gather to create, build, explore and discover using different types of materials and tools. Sometimes referred to as STEAM labs, hacker spaces or fab labs, makerspaces are popping up in schools, libraries and community centres all around the world.

 

History

Makerspaces grew out of DIY and hacker cultures. The “maker movement” is said to have started in 2005 when the first Make Magazine was published. This movement established a community for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers to collaborate and share projects and inspiration.

Today’s makerspaces are rich learning environments that include a range of high tech and low tech materials and serve to foster grassroots innovation within communities.

Makerspace

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What is the purpose of a makerspace?

A Makerspace is a place where someone could come to learn how to use a new tool or material in a new way, see what others are working on and/or explore and discover how to use that new material or skill in pursuit of an intrinsically motivated project.

It’s basically a place where you can make cool stuff… while learning through hands on experimentation… practicing creative problem solving… and persevering through challenges to reach your end goal.

What do you want to make?

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Who are makerspaces for?

The following list taken from the Makerspace Playbook answers the question ‘What makes a Maker?’:

  • Makers believe that if you can imagine it, you can make it. We see ourselves as more than consumers – we are productive; we are creative.
  • Makers seek out opportunities to learn to do new things, especially through hands-on, DIY (do-it-yourself) interactions.
  • Makers comprise a community of creative and technical people that help one another do better. They are open, inclusive, encouraging and generous in spirit.
  • Makers celebrate other Makers – what they make, how they make it and the enthusiasm and passion that drives them.

“Everyone is a Maker, and our world is what we make it.”

– Makerspace Playbook

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What does a Makerspace look like?

Makerspaces are typically designed with a balance of large work surfaces for collaboration and areas for quiet tinkering independently. Materials include a diverse range of tools and supplies organized in clear containers to spark the imagination in times of ‘Maker’s block’.

Other things you might see in a Makerspace:

  • An “idea rummage box” is a place for kids to store extra materials or objects that might inspire others.
  • Wall space or a shelving area for showcasing products and the process to seed ideas and inspiration.
  • Tool and material suggestions include reusable tools (cutting materials – scissors, X-acto knife, etc., joining materials – staple gun, hot glue gun, sewing needles etc., power tools – jigsaw, sewing machine, drill etc., batteries, electronics and textiles) and consumable materials (electronics, sandpaper, adhesives, wood, textiles, tape etc.).

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What are the key benefits of Makerspaces?

  • Makerspaces engage students in learning.
  • STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities.
  • Inquiry based learning.
  • Hands on exploration.
  • Encourages design thinking mindset and practices.
  • Collaboration and community building.
  • Practicing growth mindset.
  • Pursuing an intrinsically motivated goal.
  • Creative problem solving skill practice.
  • Idea generation, development and testing > experiencing the creative process.

 

Makerspace Project

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Resources:

Additional articles you might be interested in:

Makerspace Playbook, School Edition – a comprehensive pdf resource for starting a Makerspace

What is a Makerspace? Video – an excellent glimpse at the experience from both student and teacher’s perspectives

Makerspace Project Ideas – Pinterest

Designing a School Makerspace

Advocating for Makerspaces in Libraries

Building a Makerspace Library

Defining Makerspaces: What the Research Says

7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces

The Big Book of Makerspace Projects

Get out of their way!

“Kids are born curious. Period…. If you’re a child, you are curious about your environment. You’re overturning rocks. You’re plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you’re doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.

 

And so then so what do adults do? They say, “Don’t pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don’t play with the egg. It might break. Don’t….” Everything is a don’t.”

The key point Neil deGrasse Tyson makes?

“Help them explore.”

Set out some binoculars or a magnifying glass or something as equally interesting.. and most importantly get out of their way and let them explore!

Child-Led Solar System Exploration

I’ve been greatly influenced by both Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies in which we are encouraged to “follow the child” and explore using “the hundred languages of children“. This is where this next exploration came from: V’s interest in working on a project and exploring it through different materials.

A few weeks ago V was telling me about a project some of her classmates had been working on at school. She decided that she wanted to work on it at home. She needed: black paper, pencil crayons, and play doh. The project subject: The Solar System.

Child-Led Solar System project, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

Her first task was to draw the planets. Referring to a Magic School Bus Space poster that we had, Violet started by drawing the sun, followed by colouring each planet in relation to it’s proximity from the sun all while carefully selecting colours that reflect the planet’s characteristics.

I’m not going to say she was all that careful about her drawing! At times I wanted to say “Slow down!” or “Colour more carefully” but I resisted critiquing and instead quickly became envious of her free flowing approach to drawing. I might have reminded her to make it a sphere or circle here or there… I couldn’t resist!

Child-Led Solar System project, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

As we went along we discussed some key characteristics of each planet:

Mercury: Lots of craters, Very hot and no water.

Venus: Clouds of deadly yellow poison called sulfuric acid. Covered with rocks.

Earth: Only planet in our solar system with oxygen and liquid water. Rocky planet.

Mars: The iron in soil makes the planet red. All water is frozen in polar ice caps.

Jupiter: Largest planet and has 16 moons. Made up mostly of gas.

Saturn: Surrounded by rings of ice, rock, and dust. Made up of gas.

Uranus: The gas methane makes the planet look blue-green. Travels around the sun on its side.

Neptune: Cold, dark, and blue. Strong wind.

V went on to sculpt some of the planets as well as the sun and the moon. I went off to do something else and came back to Saturn…

Child-Led Solar System project, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

.. and Earth.. V: “The green is the grass and blue is the water.”

Child-Led Solar System project, http://keepingcreativityalive.comI’m not sure she ever completed every planet but she felt satisfied with her solar system exploration.

A few days later, V came home with her school solar system project! Goes to show that just because they’ve done it once doesn’t mean they can’t practice it again.. especially when the interest is there!

Child-Led Solar System project, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

One of the best things you can do for your kids…

Allow time for unstructured play, you never now what will come of it! http://keepingcreativityalive.com

Nothing.

Sometimes it’s true, it’s best to do nothing. Don’t plan a play date, don’t set up an activity or schedule an outing.  Scheduling free time for unstructured play is one of the best things you can do.

The beauty of allowing free time for unstructured play for your children is you never know what is going to come of it!  It’s fun to see where their curiosities will take them.

Today V decided that it was Mr. Dragon’s birthday! Who knew?!  He was turning 7! She got to work straight away deciding what she needed to do to pull off a party in such short notice! She set out a plan: get party hats out, make a birthday party sign and prepare loot bags. In fact she even found an activity to be played ‘at the party’!

Before getting the party hats, she had to determine how many she would need which involved counting all her animal friends. I asked if she included herself and her sister in the number she had come to which led her to recount all her friends plus herself and her sister.

Next she pulled out the paper and pencil crayons and delegated the sign making to me! She coloured it in and stuck it to the wall with tape.  Then share thoughtfully prepared the loot bags for each of her guests and guarded them so that her sister would get into them!

Children’s play flourishes when we ‘let it’ rather than ‘make it’ happen.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne, M.Ed.

The party was a great success! Judging by the picture, I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all!

What happens at your home when you allow time for unstructured play?

Building Self Awareness and Confidence

Building Confidence in Kids, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

Through my contemplations about what it means to be creative I keep going back to one thing: Confidence. Having the confidence to try new things, to explore and to create.

I’ve been thinking a lot about things I can do to help my little ones build confidence.

A few days ago I came across a link to a blog article titled “Would you let your baby do this?” Intrigued I clicked through and read the article and of course watched the video. It really caused me to pause and think about my own parenting style and how I would have handled myself in that situation.

Then I was in that situation. A day or two later I was at the park with my girls. E went for the climbing wall and I decided that rather than help her climb the wall as I had the week before I would watch closely… and on a whim I decided to video tape the experience.

“I did it!”

This video absolutely captures for me what Janet Lansbury’s article is all about: allowing children the opportunity to practice their gross motor skills without interfering and observing the benefits!

What struck me the most as this was taking place is that E asked for help remembering that I had helped her before. She had developed a bit of dependency and thought she needed the help. I let her climb and she asked again “Mommy Help Evelyn.” Again I didn’t  say anything but I watched closely, not touching her.  (The part where the camera moves was me carefully watching to make sure I was there to catch her if she fell, but I didn’t touch her and she made it to the top!) In this moment she realized she could do it! I can watch this over and over and over again.

This video was her first solo attempt. After reaching the top, she went down the slide and practiced her climbing an additional 3 times, each time proclaiming “See! I did it!” with great pride and confidence!

Building confidence is a practice.

I share this experience here because it was a great reminder to me that sometimes it’s best to stand back (but not too far back in this case!) and observe. To let children practice, fall, explore, try, concentrate, make decisions, question and find their own answers because when they do the reward is so much greater than if I had helped her climb the wall.

This experience also demonstrated for me that helping our children doesn’t always help them. I’m just glad that I realized this soon enough that she didn’t not try because she didn’t think she could do it herself.

I have come to understand that creativity has everything to do with confidence. Building confidence is a practice that needs nurturing. It can be lost and found again. Artist Kelly Rae Roberts thoughtfully talks about this on her blog and offers ideas for inviting confidence back into your life.

Thank you Janet Lansbury for sharing your article again highlighting the benefits of RIE parenting and reminding me to stand back sometimes.

 Photo credit: ‘ I can because I think I can’ letterpress print by Print and Be Merry.

Maybe Tomorrow

Much like The Little Boy Story, this totally breaks my heart:

Maybe Tomorrow
by Lindy T. Redmond

Me do it,” said the 2 year old,
“Mom, me will do it now,”
“Oh no, my dear,” she replied,
“I must show you how!”
“Let me try it,” he called at 3
“Let me make my bed,”
“No, you will have lumps in it,
Color this instead.”
 
So she placed the coloring book
Near him on the table,
“Now try to color in the lines
The best you are able.”
“But Mom, I want to draw the world
And all the butterflies,
I want to make the mountains tall,
And make rainbows in the skies.”
 
Color carefully,” she replied,
And color the flowers red,
Color the sky all light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
And as the 4 year old one day
His shoes he tried to tie,
His father said, “I’ll teach you how
And later YOU can try.”
 
And so it was, from birth to 5,
The others told him HOW,
They gave him restraints and set the laws
Of what they would allow.
Then one day the yellow bus
Came right up to his door,
The little boy thought for sure
That NOW he could explore.
 
He now could dream and imagine
And experiment on his own,
He could paint HIS colors
And investigate all alone.
 
He could soar to the highest mountains,
He could dream in his mind
He could nurture his talents,
His gifts he could now fine.
 
The teacher came into his room
And greeted everyone
“Take out your crayons and paper,
we’re going to have some fun.”
“Use this tracer to make a bunny
And neatly print your name,
They’ll all be brown with long ears,
They’ll all look just the same.”
 
But I don’t want my bunny
To stand up straight and tall
I want him crouched among the grass
And to be white, that’s all.”
“They’ll be nicer if we keep
Them looking alike too,
Now please sit down & start your work
We’ve got a lot to do.”
 
So slowly he took his seat,
His eyes had lost their thrill,
He now knew just what he’d face,
Monotony and drill.
“Maybe later,” thought the lad,
“She’ll let me make my own,
Maybe tomorrow I can paint
My picture all alone.”
 
So on the next clear morning,
They took their crayons out,
“Oh boy, I’ll make the sky orange
I’ll be different, without a doubt.”
“Color carefully,” she replied,
“And color the flowers red,
Color the sky light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
“Maybe tomorrow, maybe never.”
Thought the boy as he colored the sky light blue.