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

maker1

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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!

A Glimpse into the Future of Education: The Khan Academy

A Glimpse into the Future of Education: The Khan Academy, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

While watching the CBC News tonight I saw this feature on Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

We are hearing a lot about how the education system needs to go through some major changes to keep up with technology and the way that children are taking in information. Khan Academy is all about that.

CBC News was so excited about this story that they posted additional footage of their interview with Khan where he explains how this project started as video tutorials for his cousins. On his family’s suggestion he posted these videos to YouTube where he soon found random people thanking him for helping their children learn concepts in math that they were struggling with.

What’s quite fascinating about this story is that the Khan Academy is actually a rather simple idea when you break it down. Sal (as student refer to him) provides a series of online tutorials on various subject matter that is explained in a very easy to understand way.

Khan took this further and created a full application for classroom use where teachers can gather data surrounding each student’s progress including content they are mastering and/or content they are stuck on. This tool empowers teachers to know exactly which kids need assistance and which peers can help struggling students to master the concepts as they have.

As Khan says, he is flipping the classroom model. Students can first study the topic at hand through the videos, then once in the classroom can apply the learning while the teacher is present to guide students and help when needed.

“A free world class education for anyone, anywhere.”

In 2011, Salman Khan talked at TedGlobal: “Let’s use video to reinvent education”.

Khan’s big vision is “a global one world classroom”.

As Bill Gates puts it: “This is a glimpse into the future of education.”

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.

Open-ended Art

We’ve been all about open-ended art up until a recent trip to an art studio which has me thinking more about the value of both open ended art AND ‘art lessons’ or a more guided approach.  Here I want to talk about open ended art and reserve the ‘art lesson’ approach for a different post.

What is open-ended art anyway?

Open-ended art is having no expectations about the product; it’s all about the process. The focus then is not trying to achieve a predetermined outcome, but instead exploring materials and experimenting with the process of creation.  The final outcome might be based on an idea or it might be abstract.  Open ended art is all about free choice, discovery, problem solving and imagination!

“Art opportunities should be open-ended experiences, offered daily, so as to not stifle a child’s own creativity. Open-ended art is developmentally appropriate at all developmental levels and abilities. These opportunities build a child’s self-esteem, eagerness to learn, fine motor skills, and confidence!”   Source article.

The debate about open ended art versus lessons opens up a big discussion which has certainly been discussed at great length among art educators.  (This article over at Deep Space Sparkle discusses this topic from an art educator standpoint. The comments in that article are particularly insightful and exhibit the many varying viewpoints that exist.)  My goal here is to consider how, as a parent, I want to approach art making with my kids at home.

I’ll start with the top five PROS of open-ended art:

(I’ll tackle the pros of the ‘art lesson’ in another post)

  1. The child has the freedom to choose materials they are interested in exploring thus pretty well guaranteeing that the child will be engaged in the activity.
  2. The child comes up with the idea of what they will do (not restrained to working within limits that they may not like).  Again, keeping motivation high.
  3. Learning takes place as child experiments with materials in new ways. Discovering techniques and outcomes independently.
  4. Problem solving takes place as the child is deciding what to do next within the process. Having the freedom to adapt and making changes along the way.
  5. Child gains confidence from the pride of knowing that they created something by themselves! This in my opinion is all the pros wrapped up into the very best outcome!

What I’ve tended to do at home is provide arts and crafts materials and let V decide what she’s going to do with it.

Recently I put out watercolour paints and watercolour paper (along with some other random materials that she always has access to) imagining that she would make some sort of abstract drawings on the beautiful paper that we could later frame and put up around the house. Free original art! But she had a different idea. She pulled out a notepad and started painting whatever came to mind! For a while it was red stick figures…

I left her to create and she got really into this pattern of painting letters of the first initial of each of the names in our family along with a colourful pattern of stripes.

At times she got incredibly frustrated when the colours were blending because of too much water but with a quick little lesson on brush handing and some practice she learned to achieve what she was trying to accomplish. (I learned that there’s sometimes a time and place for a little lesson!)

The key learning for me in all of our open ended art explorations is that when the activity is guided by the child, the passion and inspiration is 100% there. Rashmie of Mommy Labs shares here experience in a blog post called Open-ended Art and Child-led Learning which includes this powerful quote:

A self-motivated soul can do wonders. There’s no limit to his/her creativity and passion.

It is through that post that I found Alissa at Creative with Kids’ fun tongue in cheek “10 Ways to Guarantee You Will Hate Doing Kids Crafts”. I can certainly relate to being guilty of a few items on this list! smirk

I’d love to hear your experiences with open-ended art in your home or classroom! What do you find works/doesn’t work?

 

The Global Cardboard Challenge

Caine’s Arcade is an absolute touching story. What pulls my heartstrings the most is the proud look on Caine’s face and his sweet toothless smile!  There’s NOTHING like the look of pure joy on a child’s face when they’ve accomplished something they’re proud of.

What’s more is that this story and the response to it inspired The Imagination Foundation. “The Imagination Foundation’s mission is to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids like Caine.”

Today is actually the Global Cardboard Challenge where people around the world are hosting events for kids to create using just cardboard and their imaginations. Anyone anywhere can play. “The idea is just to bring the whole world together to play and celebrate creativity and imagination.”

What a beautiful story and important project. Love that Nirvan Mullick, the filmmaker behind Caine’s Arcade, says “this all started with going to buy a door handle” but ended up buying a funpass! He not only found joy in discovering Caine’s arcade but did something to celebrate it. Then did something even bigger with the attention his short film received by keeping the creative momentum going and starting the Imagination Foundation.  Goes to show that when you believe in something and put your heart into it, amazing things happen. I’m inspired… again.

Creating Innovators

Creating Innovators. The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World addresses these questions through in-depth profiles of young innovators and the adults who have made a difference in their lives, as well as vivid descriptions of innovation-driven classrooms and places of work.

YES! This is what my intention for this blog is all about. Looking at what we can do as parents and caregivers and teachers to foster creative minds that will innovate and make positive changes in the world!

Some quotes from the video that resonate with me:

“Raising someone with an intention that they’ll be an innovator is actually different than raising a child that you want to behave all the time and be quite compliant.” – Annemarie Neal, Cisco Vice President

“Let them fail because they are going to learn more from that than we can ever teach them directly.”

“Our success is measured by the rate of innovation.”

This leaves me pondering: what more can I do to encourage my children to be innovators?

Here are some answers to my own question; some of which I’ve instinctively been practicing. It’s a work in progress and there’s certainly always a lot of room for pushing and challenging myself to inspire and create learning opportunities for my kids at home. In any case, this is where I’m at in the process:

  • Provide opportunities to practice decision making.
  • Support the decision made.
  • As per supporting and encouraging independent thinking via decision making (as an example), build confidence. One example is standing behind decisions that are made. Providing positive feedback and praise when appropriate and relevant. Or acknowledging good thinking and new ideas: “that’s a great idea!”
  • Provide problem solving activities regularly.  A lot of times children will come up with their own challenges to solve. Ha! Like the time V wanted to get through the fence to visit the neighbourhood girls. She decided she’d use scissors to cut a hole in the wood to crawl through. When that didn’t work she ran inside to get a pencil to draw a door that she could open. This went on for a while! I can’t actually remember how she resolved her challenge.
  • Dedicate time each day where children can follow their own interests and curiosities, daydream or pursuit a project/game/activity idea.

What are ways that you foster innovation with your kids?

Early Childhood Development – Dr. Fraser Mustard

“The first six years of life set the stage for lifelong learning, behaviour, health and well-being.” Dr. J Fraser Mustard

Dr. Fraser Mustard, renowned for his work in early human development passed away November 16th, 2011.  I hadn’t heard of him until seeing articles celebrating his life for his unwaivering championing of the importance of early brain development.  But I have certainly felt his impact through the Early Years Centres that I’ve enjoyed using over the years. And I certainly share his passion for the importance of the early years in a child’s life.

Together with Margaret McCain, he co-authored the original Early Learning Report that illustrated the importance of a child’s experiences (of lack thereof) during the first six years of a child’s life. This study impacted how we perceived and valued early learning. As a result, the province of Ontario set up Early Years Centres, made more funding available for various early learning initiatives and in 2010 started phasing in full day kindergarten.

Can I tell you how impressive these Early Years Centre are? I see these centres in cities and towns across our province (there are several location in my town) and the services they provide are incredible – from nursery school classes, parenting seminars, parent and tot activities and on and on. It’s a huge support system for families and judging by the parking lot and wait lists to get into some of the classes it’s a resource that is well used in the community.

I dug a little deeper to learn more about this intriguing man who had six children of his own and found this CBC interview.  In it, he talks about two key factors that can positively improve a child’s development: good nutrition and opportunities for problem based learning. He also discusses the importance of human evolution and parenting as discussed in the book Mothers and Others by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. I’ll definitely be checking that out.

He’s an inspiring man.  He certainly inspired many to carry on his mission. Below are organizations that resulting from inspiration or a direct influence of Dr. Fraser Mustard. RIP.

With the Brain In Mind

Kids Can Fly

Lastly, I need to include this interview in which Dr. Mustard is asked “Why is 6 the magic age? Six and under.. what needs to be done and why?” The answer? The very reason I am so passionate about this topic.

Book Review 005: Emily’s Art

Evaluating art is a dicey topic – particularly in relation to how teachers evaluate and assess the visual arts in elementary school classrooms and how that affects our children. Peter Catalanotto’s book Emily’s Art covers this subject appropriately by illustrating a story of a young inspired artist encounter a less than inspiring art contest experience.

The short story before the story sets the stage for what is about to happen.  The appropriately named teacher, Ms. Fair asks “Can anyone tell me what a contest is?” After a few guesses it’s agreed that a contest  is “to see who is the best”. Then it is announced that the school is having an art contest in which there will be prize ribbons to the best painting in each grade. The teacher goes on to explain that a judge will decide the winners based on which she thinks is the best. One of my favourite lines in the book is: “If I lose the art contest will the judge put me in jail?” But even better might be the line: “No, of course not. Losing an art contest does not make you a bad person… just a bad artist.”

Emily’s story is compelling and heart breaking. The principal’s mother is brought in to judge the art work. She justifies her qualifications by declaring “My cousin is married to an artist” – hilarious! She falls in love with Emily’s painting until she learns it’s a dog (not a beautiful rabbit as she thought) and proceeds to dismiss the art based on a bad experience she had with a dog!

When you consider all of the little kids out there that have been turned off of art because they don’t think they’re good enough or that their painting of a tree doesn’t look like a realist representation of a tree, it’s really sad.

This is most definitely a story worth sharing with your kids. My library copy is overdue. I most definitely will be buying this book for our collection.

I’ll leave with Catalanotto’s dedication which I just love: For all children who paint with their hearts.

The Hundred Languages of Children – Poem

In all of my reading and research of teaching and learning philosophies, the poem below (written by the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach) has stood out more than anything. It encapsulates my excitement in watching my little girl explore and learn through the ‘hundred languages’ and my fear in what school and culture might do to harm her ability to exercise those languages.

It’s beautiful but it’s scary.  It is my hope that if I can do my part to prepare my child to be one that will say:  “No way. The hundred is there!”

No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

– Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lelia Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach