Just starting a Makerspace in your school? Tips on where to start!

 

Kristy Luker working teaching a student to knit

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to co-create two Makerspaces (from Cafe Bar to Makerspace)  within my school District – both very different and yet both fall under similar approaches and philosophies that were inspired by the town of Emilia Reggio  which is “based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach 

 

Some students using Sphero and some students sewing.

Our Makerspaces  include a vast assortment of  technology tools and robotics as well as hands-on building and craft material and textiles (sewing machines), arts and music , and content producing tools (camera, computers, tablets). But more important, the spaces are facilitated by trained (and interested) teachers who spend a good deal of time creating “situations” and “opportunities” to collaborate and innovate. This means, paying attention to the surrounding and how it “feels”. 

 

“Third Teacher”. Educators and leaders who put value on the Reggio Emilia place a high value on the aesthetic and physical environment of the school, often referring to it as the “third teacher” (Gandini, 1998, p. 177).

Is the space inviting and inclusive?

This is not to say that Makerspaces cannot be created in a multitude of ways. There are pop-up makerspaces, shared spaces, Makerspaces in classrooms, libraries, community centres, coffee shops, shared Makerspace kits (portable).. and even in households (garages, basements). But, it is important to recognize the collaborative nature of Makers and the role that SPACE, SET-UP, ORGANIZATION play.

Just starting out??  

  • I suggest that you tap into the skills of your colleagues and staff.
  • Be Inclusive. 
  • DO NOT necessarily start the space by ONLY bringing in complex robotics, programming or computers.
  • Scaffold. Differentiate. If it is just about one thing, you will miss the opportunity to engage a variety of minds and innovators.  
  • RE ENGAGE teachers/parents/students that may feel alienated by technology and bring them on board but tapping into their interest!
  • Make Connections to all types of Making – There are many similarities between some programming languages and knitting or stitching, the arts, music and of course it can ALL connect to curriculum.

Ask: Who on staff can Sew? Crochet? Knit? Cook? Change a car tire? Change a bike tube? Who has any lego and loves to build? Who can draw? Who knows programming? Who owns a robot?

Interestingly, sometimes the best Learning and Professional Development happens around Making and Doing. The environment of collaboration is natural, organic and inspires community which then alleviates the pressure. People are laughing, sharing, helping each other and “formal” leadership disappears – letting everyone feel like they have a place – an important role to play. People are bringing in different perspectives, different skill sets. Once everyone is talking, sipping on tea, helping each other ‘make’ (that relationship building stuff), then a leader/facilitator can slip in the Professional Development. Bang! As an aside, in fact, this is often how we teach curriculum to students – by getting them engaged in play, making and a collaborative task. Have question prompts and assessment questions ready to go (we just index cards and place around the room)! Bang!

Finally – is there interest in creating an atmosphere of making? Does the room/area talk about pedagogy – what is the philosophy behind it?? Can a work table be brought in? Can a community group be put together to come in on a Saturday and set it up?? Can couch or two be brought in- with coffee table? Is there small plants for growing/eating? How about a whiteboard for designing, writing? Does the environment make kids and adults WANT to be there?

Let’s say you have $1000.00 to spend for your startup. What would you buy? Survey your staff – (Teachers, Education Assistants, Consultants, Coaches) to see what would be the tools/products that would bring in the community. Is anyone interested being the ‘resident’ expert? Through a shared document (OneNote or Google Drive), ask them to add to the list or just sign up. The space doesn’t need to be about one thing or one person.

Don’t forget about the Parents and Community! You might be surprised at how many people have things laying around the house and would LOVE to donate these to a COMMUNITY SPACE. Lego, puzzles, rubic cubes, small tools,

This might be something that could be sent to staff/community. This is only a very small example (but I did say that we only had about $1000.00 to spend). There are many many products and tools that could be added and would depend on school community and staff –>

Maker Tools or Activity Skill, knowledge building Estimated Cost Staff Interested
Electric Sewing Machine

Material and supplies

Sewing Materials

Math – Applied understanding

Measurement, Geometry, Patterning, Algebra

PROJECT BASED LEARNING

150.00 each

100.00

Does anyone have anything to donate?
Knitting/Crocheting Materials

(Yarn, needles)

Math – Patterning, Geometry, Spacial, Ratio, Symmetry $100.00 (approx)
Does anyone have anything to donate?
OZOBOT
Robotics
Great for ages 5 – 99

Coding through colour or block programming

Lots of great challenges and an amazing website to help teachers

$100.00 (approx)
MAKEY MAKEY Circuits and manipulation of wires/circuits to control a computer

Great for exploration, play and making connections to “how things work” and electricity.

$50.00 (approx)
(buy at least two)
Hyperduino An excellent kit that teaches students to code with a purpose and how they can combine coding with presentations! $100.00
Sphero I highly suggest this fun robot. Not only do students learn how to drive and manipulate the robot but they can also use blockly programming! This is one of our favourtes and learners of ALL love the Sphero.   $150.00
Art Bean Art  – Use Pulses (dried beans, chickpeas, lentils…etc.) and have students create beautiful tactile art $100.00 (approx) for a few easels
Sketch Pencils and notepads
Chess… $100.00
Puzzles…
Crafts…

Links to further resources:

Help, My Principal says I need to start a Makerspace… http://search.proquest.com/openview/79ef65b2aedc529a0db3f6c33497b458/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=38018 

Launching a Makerspace: Lessons Learned From a Transformed School Library

A little Kindergarten and A little Starbucks – Universal Classroom Design

We designed our learning space with a little Kindergarden and a little Starbucks  – Here is how it happened:

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In June 2014, we were informed that we would be moving to an empty/unused classroom at Holbrook School (HWDSB). We were also informed that our proposal for new technology was granted which included 1:1 computers, projector, interactive whiteboard, doc camera (microscope), tablets, 3D printer, and NXT Robotics. Regardless of the fact that we were at the mercy of the physical space and size, including windows, electricity and lighting, we were absolutely pumped to design our “dream” classroom space that was Universal  for all learners.


computers

maker space

 

From the onset, we wanted a space that not only engaged students to be active participants in their own learning, but also a place where all learners could feel comfortable, safe and part of a community.

 

 

 

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We would create an environment that felt completely different from a “traditional” classroom and yet was full of big ideas, information, tools and learning, and of course, with full guidance from a variety of educators.  There would be a mix of exploration, hands-on learning and inquiry, but with a ‘bistro’ or ‘coffee shop’ feeling. We would end each day with a cup of tea and a group circle to ensure that every single student would be seen, heard and valued. Community would be vital to making this work.

 

This space would be where students or adults could sit around and table talk, listen and create ideas together – to be active learners and leaders.  In this space, students wouldn’t be judged and wouldn’t place judgement on others, but instead, would welcome differences and offer support, skills and talent whenever needed. This space, in some way, would speak to every single student and would welcome all abilities.

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SCIENCEIMG_5233We would respect the quiet learners but would also encourage team and cooperative learning in variety of ways, including game-based learning, through the ARTs and infused with technology and design.

 localbig questionAbove all, we would centre our program around Social Justice and local/global issues. This  learning environment would match our beliefs and values about how students learn best and would reflect the changing nature of learning (and teaching).

 

 

In the room, there would be strong emphasis on Critical Literacy. Inquiry questions and Big Ideas would provide focus for exploration of Millenium Goals (United Nations) and for both guided and self-directed learning. A writing and podcast centre would  provide resources such as Livescribe Pens, Journals (for co-written topics) and a variety of choices for students to write, draw and share at their level and interest.

alternative spaces

The room design would  recognizes the need for quiet and individuality when learning, and so, we would design a small and separate space for “chilling” – one that resembles a most cozy living room (lamp, curtains, carpet, couch and books).  It would be a goal to ensure that even the most “anxious” learner could find a place where he/she felt comfortable to engage in inquiry.

 

 

health

Our space would speak to our strong belief, that Health and Fitness are what “Matters Most”. We would plant a small herb garden, healing plants, and provide literature dedicated to healthy living, including fitness, balance, and mental health. We would practise and model an environmentalist approach to living through recycling and composting. Maintaining a worm composting system teaches students how to create fertile soil and to learn what it means to be self-sustaining.

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The entrance of the room would demonstrate that the ARTS would define our space, not technology. We would use the giant wall space to create a Green Screen for video productions and storytelling  and we would reserve a large section of the space for Visual Arts. We would ensure that music was available for listening or playing. We envisioned students gathering around a shared space to compose, play and create.

 

We would reserve one side of the room for group laptops, ipads and an apple TV for sharing. Close by would be the 3D Makerbot printer along with tablets and computers allocated specifically for design and engineering.  We would use creative programs like Minecraft, Tinkercad, Lego NXT Sketchpad, Spore and Portal2 (to name a few) to engage students in design concepts as well as provide opportunity for them to co-create.

3dprintingcomputersgreen screentwo_roads_diverged_in_a_yellow_wood

3DPRINT2

It would be incredible to create a space for our students to tinker, take things apart and build. If space allowed, we would dedicate an area for lego and whatever building materials we could get our hands on. We hope to teach “maker skills” like cooking, and knitting.

3d printer

ART

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We would combine our Science and Math spaces which allowed for personalized exploration. We would set up manipulatives, both physical and virtual to help engage students in real world problems, including city planning. The interactive Smartboard would be used solely for student led activities and would always have Google Earth and current news sites up in the background. We would infuse other technology with the interactive smartboard including a Ladybug Document Camera so our students could examine the world around them – in detail.

math iwb

We would recognize the need for clarity in voice and listening and would use a classroom amplification system. Students and teachers could share, speak and be heard – effortlessly.

 

 

 

Our physical space would be blended with an online space. Students would have access to online learning (E-Learning). We could post information, offer feedback and provide opportunity for rich discussions, even when students were not present. We could use collaborative tools like Office 365, Google Documents, Mindomo and Voice Thread (to name a few)  to share work and allow for natural and engaging extensions.  We would further use or connectivity to reach out to leaders, learners and experts around the world, to network, share and make connections.


 

We were truly given the opportunity of a lifetime – to create a universally designed learning space that modeled changing teaching and learning practices.

music

We would honour this goal: to open our space for all learners – of all ages and abilities, to respect difference and to recognize that learning and teaching are in a constant state of flux. Here, we will create a classroom environment that would be used as a demonstration for others  that are also seeking ways to enrich their own program through inquiry and project based learning spaces.

 

Great Global Hackerspace Challenge

GET YOUR STUDENTS INVOLVED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CLASSROOM LEARNING TOOL FILL OUT THIS FORM!!

We are tool using animals and its the reason that we are the dominate species on this planet. It is the reason that we make stuff – but we don’t make stuff anymore. (James Arlen)

I’ve been following  @myrcurial James Arlen for quite sometime on Twitter. What brought us together in the first place I’m sure, was our shared beliefs about education and the need for change. We both advocate for an education system that is not only fair and equitable for all students, but that is current and authentic. I also have been interested in his involvement in Hamilton’s Hackerspace, ‘Thinkhause’. James asked me to join his group of hackers at Thinkhause to discuss a new project: The Great Global Hackesrpace Challenge.

I toured the Hackerspace from the perspective of a teacher, as I often do. In education, we talk about problem solving. We talk about having our students “think critically”. We advocate and implement problem based learning and inquiry driven lessons. This hackerspace encompasses all of these things – in real life. As I toured the space and talked with James and the other project members I was fascinated with the set up of the room. Every area of the space was created to promote design, creation collaboration, discussion, brainstorming and problem solving. How about that.There was a massive island in the middle of the table was covered in tools, designs, and notes. On the other end of the room was another large table looking onto the interactive whiteboard (they made themselves) used as another space for group projects, conversations, and a place to create. Eventually, I was guided to the “think” area of the room containing a few comfortable couches and again, onlooking another giant idea wall. As the folks from the Thinkhaus described their project, my eyes kept wondering. QR codes were pasted on the cupboards with each code eventually leading to a description of the cupboards contents, or instructions for a tool. Recycled materials, electronics, computers, cords and tools in organized in every nook and cranny of the room.

Then, James showed me this fascinating project that he is working on for with a group of Girl-Guides as a way of promoting females to be interested in the engineering side of things. This video says it all:

Below is the pencast (audio and notes) that I took from our conversation about the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge. James describes a multi-device prob type tool (name yet to be decided) that allows students to collect data and interact with their environment in hundreds of ways. Our shared concern is that with the ease of technologies today, students often miss the opportunity to really understand how the data is collected. Looking it up isn’t good enough. This device, sort of a “new age” Swiss Army Knife will provide a multitude of inquiry based tools. Imagine a tool where students can measure their water quality and in real time in different locations? Imagine a tool that can be left outdoors and programmed to measure wind, or air quality, or temperature? Or a tool that allows students to interact with GPS using an exact gauge or a tool that can be hooked up to a toy car to replicate the force from an accident, or a tool that measures electrical currents and their reaction to different surfaces? It is these hands on experiences that will help students begin to connect to their own world and their interactions with it.

Conversation about Global Hackerspace Challenge Project #hamont
Element14 Blog

http://www.element-14.com/community/people/thinkhaus/blog

The Maker Culture Project: Skype between Lawfield and Ryerson University

Through studies in Aboriginal Culture and Early Settlements as well as connections around the world, students are learning about how this has influenced the Maker Culture of today.  Students are learning that they are in control of their own education and can use current technologies to help them learn about the past as well as tapping in on the expertise of others. The following video is the first meeting with Ryerson University for the Maker Culture Project.