Creating a makerspace in school

Recently, we have had a number of requests from schools to get inspiration on creating a school makerspace and the kind of tools and activities to stock the space with. Having facilitated a number of activities for children, we put together a programme for teachers on setting up a space to facilitate the development of the maker mindset in students.

When we talk about the maker movement, we often associate it with high tech tools such as arduinos, Little Bits, Computing, Programming etc, or with skills such as soldering, wood working etc, which are skills commonly taught in Design and Technology programmes. This could be because a number of websites talking about the maker movement talks has a long list of projects and activities. Great examples of such websites include Makezine, Instructables, the Tinkering studio blog etc.

One thing that we like to stress is that Making is not a set of skills. Making is a mindset. To take it from the words of Dale Dougherty, Founder of Makezine and MakerFaire, maker movement aims to
• to create a context that develops the maker mindset, a growth mindset that encourages students to believe they can learn to do anything;
• to design and develop makerspaces in a variety of community contexts that serve a diverse group of learners who do not all share the same resources;
• to identify, develop, and share a broad framework of projects and kits, based on a wide range of tools and materials, that connect to student interests in and out of school;
• to develop programs especially for young people that allow them to take a leading role in creating more makers in schools, afterschool programs, summer camps, and other community settings;
• to create a community context for the exhibition and curating of student work in relationship with all makers and making, such that new opportunities are created for more people to participate;
• to allow individuals and groups to build a record of participation in the maker community, which can be useful for academic and career advancement as well as support the student’s growing sense of personal development;

Kickstarting a maker movement in schools therefore is a combination of skills and mindsets, where students are given open ended challenges, but also the opportunity for masterclasses where they can pick up the relevant skills from the internet, their peers or from the makerspace facilitators.

So, when we had the opportunity to extend a training programme for teachers from Tampines Secondary on growing the maker mindset in their students, we split the programme into two parts – a master class on Arduino which was conducted by the facilitators at CRADLE and a one day programme to share toughts and ideas for suitable activities to promote the maker mindset.

We began with the Marshmallow Challenge, where the teachers worked in teams to construct a free standing structure with spagetti, tape and string.

Often, when we talk about the Maker movement, we talk about the power of experiences in inculcating learning – the more experiences you have, the more you learn. The Marshmallow challenge is a perfect way to illustrate the importance of experience (Watch the TED talk, it is pretty cool!). The tallest structure that we got was made by our two interns who had joined the training. To us it was clear why, Niha, one of the interns, had spent the last couple of weeks building tetrahedrons from wooden skewers for a Sierpinsky fractal.

After the marshmallow challenge, we moved on to everyone’s favorite tech toy – the Makey Makey. To ensure variation, the teams had challenges to work on – like make a musical instrument and make a fencing game.

We loved the fencing costume that a team of teachers put together. The creativity, sense of humor and enthusiasm was rather infectious.

Post lunch, we had a couple of basic circuit and electronic hacking activities.One of which was inspired by the Booby trap activity in Maker Camp Fall edition. An important takeaway from this activity was the use of familiar materials in unfamiliar ways and throwing yourself in uncomfortable situations, both of which are core tenets of the maker mindset. A group of teachers built their circuit in traditional (school) way with crocodile clips and the likes. We then challenged them to substitute the materials with the usual circuit sticker materials – copper tape, coin batteries etc. I think it was rather eye opening to the teachers that substitution of materials required a different level of troubleshooting.

We hope that the teachers will find ways to implement the maker mindset through programmes and activities in their school. We look forward to hearing from them on updates

Resources:

Slides: PD workshop_schools

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