4 Reasons You Should Create a Makerspace

Makerspace activityOne of the most common questions I get from educators about makerspaces is a rather simple one: Why?

It is a very good question that needs a very good answer if a school is going to invest the time, money, and people needed to make their makerspace a successful space for students and staff. What is great about this question is that it has many different answers. In fact, each school that wants to create a makerspace will probably have a different answer, and that is just fine. Every school is filled with different teachers and students and they should have different reasons to create a makerspace. With that in mind, it is important to create your own individualized space instead of duplicating another space you see online or visit in person.

Use the reasons below to help you think through why you want to create a makerspace of your own and to help you build an amazing resource for your school or library.

Makerspaces Promote Play!

We often forget that play is the most basic and earliest form of learning. Having fun and trying new things is something that is programmed into our DNA from the minute we are brought into this world. That need to explore and learn is crucial to developing strong critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

At its foundation, making is the creation of something that did not exist before you made it. This is a broad definition, but I like it that way. Making should be as inclusive as possible. Whether it is painting, sculpting, coding, crafting, knitting, or even writing poetry, the act of making is a fun exploration of creativity. During that exploration, there will be times that problem-solving and critical thinking will be needed to complete the build. But when students are making and having fun, they don’t really think about that — they just work until they finish because there is fun and joy in making.

When students have a space where they feel comfortable sitting and making, they will learn amazing things, and not just about topics in the curriculum — you will also see them learning  amazing things about themselves.

“Making should be as inclusive as possible.”

They Help Support Equity

One of the things I love most about makerspaces is that they provide equitable access to new tools that support learning. It is easy to assume that a student has a computer and WiFi at their house, but the truth is, some of our students just do not have access. Many also do not have the ability to buy programs to teach them how to code or to purchase robots to execute the code they have written. Sometimes they are not able to get access to basic crafting materials for different class projects. When creating a space for students to make, it is important to think about the basic supplies it should contain so that all students have access to the same materials for their projects.

While a makerspace is not going to solve all issues regarding equity, it is still a space that will allow students of all backgrounds to sit down and make what they want without worrying about costs. Knocking down a barrier like that can lead to some amazing opportunities and creations from students.

Need Help Getting Started?

Download Demco’s How to Start a Makerspace Guide for tips on funding, getting buy-in, low-tech and high-tech tools and more.

They Engage All Learners

One of the things I really love about working with makerspaces is that they have the power to engage all learners no matter where they are on their educational journey. A space can be anything to any student at any time. How the student wants to demonstrate understanding of content is up to them.

Makerspaces give students the opportunity to personalize their creations based on their abilities. This will give them a strong sense of ownership that allows them to engage with content and projects at a much higher level. A maker class designed to support reading and writing can be filled with a diverse set of students with varied reading and writing levels. They can create projects that show their understanding of a novel the class read by designing in 3D for the 3D printer, drawing or painting, or creating a design for the laser cutter. But, most importantly, they can use the skills they are comfortable with to decide how they will demonstrate their understanding of the story. Having that diverse set of tools in the makerspace makes it possible for that equally diverse group of students to create incredible projects.

They’re Not Just for STEM

This is the one that I think is very important because there is a misconception that makerspaces are just for STEM learning. First, I have to say that STEM needs to be STEAM. The arts are an important part of any education system. When we call our schools STEM schools, it relays the message that the arts are not important. Plenty of research has been done to show the value of the arts for young children. Learning to paint, draw, dance, play music, and other aspects of the arts can lead to fewer discipline issues, higher overall academic achievement, and improved literacy skills. Also, while using STEM skills might make your robot work, using STEAM skills will make the robot work and look cool.

STEAM and makerspaces go hand in hand because a makerspace is just a location that allows people to create. A makerspace can support a varied curriculum if the focus of the school is on creation instead of regurgitation. To be more specific, if a school focuses on project-based learning and portfolios instead of standardized tests, students from all content areas will utilize a makerspace in a wide variety of ways to demonstrate understanding. A makerspace is the perfect tool to provide to students and staff to allow them to stretch their creative muscles and make things that truly show what they understand. Asking students to create complex items is a far better assessment than asking them to fill out a true-or-false test.

What’s Your Why?

These are some of the broader reasons to create a makerspace in your school. What is important is that you take the time to explore what your students and staff need most and see how you could tailor a space that is just right for them. This is something that could take time; implementing project-based learning and utilizing a makerspace should be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint. Continue to ask questions and push to find the right answers that meet the needs of your school. If you do that, you will create a space that serves all learners.

Author

Nicholas Provenzano

Nicholas Provenzano

Technology Coordinator and Makerspace Director at University Liggett School in Michigan
Known as The Nerdy Teacher, Nicholas is the Technology Coordinator and Makerspace Director at University Liggett School in Michigan, and is also a prolific author, speaker and consultant. He writes on his website, TheNerdyTeacher.com, Edutopia.org, and many other prominent educational websites. Nicholas has been featured on CNN.com, Education Week, The New York Times, and other media outlets and is the author of the best-selling book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces. In 2013, he was awarded the Technology Teacher of the Year by MACUL and ISTE. He is also a Google Certified Innovator, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and a TEDEd Innovative Educator. Nicholas is sharing plenty of nerdy things on the Ideas and Inspiration site, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @thenerdyteacher.