There has recently been a large push for schools and education institutions to create and include makerspaces. These are specific areas that allow pupils to create and innovate to solve problems and learn in a more tactile way. Makerspaces should have a continuum of activities so that they are accessible and appreciated by children at all different educational levels.
To better understand makerspaces, you need to recognise what makes a ‘maker’. A maker is curious, enthusiastic and celebrates learning across all subjects including Art, Maths, Science, Engineering and Crafts. They have a can-do mindset that propels them to find new and exciting solutions. But most of all, a maker is not afraid to fail because they know that each mistake and experience brings them one step closer to the answer.
Making a makerspace
One of the best things about makerspaces is that they can be created anywhere - in a library, a classroom, or even in a mobile format. Makers can learn and create anywhere. With a variety of locations also comes a variety of tools that can be used to get hands-on! Don’t be afraid to encourage children to use anything that might make their creations better. For instance, use fabrics, paper, bricks, cardboard, recycled materials, or even objects from outside; let pupils’ imaginations run wild. Providing all of these resources in a ‘craft library’ of sorts can help build imagination and develop design creativity and aesthetic skills. Think also about using real world situations to teach topics and concepts to pupils. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from everywhere. For example, if they are studying world history, challenge them to build a boat to circumnavigate the globe.
Makerspaces are all about learning to overcome obstacles and problem-solve. Makers are people who aren’t afraid to fail; they cultivate the notion that mistakes can lead to better discoveries and stronger ideas. Therefore, celebrate the successes, and build pupils’ confidence in themselves, their skills, and their creations. By setting open-ended tasks, children can learn that there is no one right answer. Instead, they are tasked to use their own interpretations and initiatives to design and build their own solutions - and if it isn’t right the first time, then they will only become more determined to fix it.
As a teacher, children rely on you to inspire them to design, build, experiment and invent. Encourage cooperation and constructive feedback between pupils to further their potential. The most important part of a makerspace for both teachers and pupils is that it is what you make it. By creating a space that pupils really want to be in - and therefore want to learn more - you are teaching them vital skills that will carry them through school and into adulthood.
Empower pupils to take control
When makerspaces are used effectively, pupils are able to use their own creativity and curiosity to guide them to unique solutions to real world problems. Pupils should be given the freedom, as well as the means, to invent and control their own learning journey. If pupils are allowed to fully explore every avenue available to them, then they are more likely to come up with amazing and unexpected solutions. Through the use of interactive, hands-on learning, in environments like makerspaces, learners develop teamwork, cooperation, and critical thinking skills.
All ages, from Preschool to Secondary (and beyond), can benefit from the open-ended and playful nature of makerspaces, unlocking true learning potentials by allowing pupils to approach problems from their own unique angle. By encouraging tinkering - learning through doing - pupils are able to take ownership of their education by independently exploring and discovering on their own or with classmates. Makerspaces help to engage pupils on a deeper level, especially when it comes to more challenging subjects including science, engineering and coding.
Although the idea of makerspaces can be a daunting thought to those used to more traditional environments, the benefits that they offer are already making significant waves across the educational community. In order to fully embrace makerspaces, teachers need to position themselves as makers and guide and inspire their pupils to also find their inner-maker.
Deep and meaningful learning can come in many different packages. It doesn’t always have to be repetition and note-taking; hands-on learning has the potential to connect children to parts of themselves they simply haven’t unlocked yet. Makerspaces allow for the true exploration of not only school topics but also life lessons.
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