“In the makerspace environment, students are set free to be makers limited only by their imagination.” This statement from Holly Fritz-Palao’s blog perfectly describes a fast-growing learning approach known as the Maker Movement. Essentially, this movement advocates for learning by doing. We all know that when we get to move around, use our hands, and make something, a significantly higher amount of learning is bound to take place. Rather than sitting in a classroom for long periods of time, listening to a rather boring lecture, and not retaining any of the information, the Maker Movement calls for endless amounts of play. Right along with this play comes tinkering, experimentation, innovation, and creation that is completely student led.
The Maker Movement is important because it is engaging, motivating, and fully inclusive. When this approach is used in the classroom, no student can be left behind because every student is in control of their own creations. Allowing students to be innovators and use what they are learning in other classes to make and create not only prepares them for the future world of technology they will be living in, but opens the doors to both personalized and project-based learning as well.
The Maker Movement classroom or “makerspace” might look like an art studio or wood shop, it might be indoors or outdoors, or it might even be a table in the lunchroom that students flock to shortly after they have shoveled down their meals. This is the case at The Computer School in New York City where teacher Tracy Rudziti has started and built and extremely successful makerspace. Here, students are encouraged to design, create, and make projects of their own choosing. Rudziti encourages their DIY endeavors and is constantly reminded by her students that, “Nothing is impossible,” and “Everything you touch is an adventure.” (Read the full story here.)
While I have never witnessed a formal makerspace in action, I imagine it would be buzzing. Brilliant young minds would be brainstorming, students would be working together and excited about the possibilities that they saw in front of them, and even more eager to share new things they have learned and discovered. It sounds like every teacher’s dream. All time is spent allowing students to imagine, create, innovate, and dream for the future. Not only does this learning approach give students freedom and ownership over their learning, but it incorporates every area of the STEM curriculum and can be used to incorporate other cross-curricular areas too!
In order to organize your own makerspace, I think you have to be a little bit comfortable with organized chaos. While all students get to work freely, build, and learn, there is guaranteed to be a significant amount of disarray at times. As long as students know the base rules and have their individual spaces tidy and clean at the end of every day, there shouldn’t be too many issues.
Even though the Maker Movement may pose some challenges such as availability of resources, finding enough time in the school day schedule, deciding how to assess student learning, and regulating the makerspace, I believe that there are some significant advantages as well. The Maker Movement provides so many opportunities for today’s students. The future world they will be living in will be vastly different than the one that we have grown up in, so the way we teach and prepare them for it should be vastly different as well. Jackie Gerstein says in her blog that the world we live in today has created the “perfect storm” for a Maker Movement in education. Maybe it’s time we get on board with and go with it!