The concept of a makerspace is relatively new. Yes, it’s been around for more than a decade now, but its value to education is just now being fully explored. For those who are still in the dark, a makerspace is a space where students can create, make, and tinker. It’s a space that can challenge a student to design and invent new things. By doing so, they will hone skills that many consider crucial in the twenty-first century. Skills like problem solving, critical thinking, and designing. As technology advances at an ever increasing rate, students will need to have these skills in order to compete in a future economy that will value creative thinking and an out-of-the-box mentality.
For these reasons, schools have been implementing makerspaces as part of the learning process for their students. Some have taken great expense to create a space that is worthy of the learning, while others have slowly integrated the concept into their classrooms. Whichever the approach, a makerspace is a wondrous addition to traditional learning and a necessity for those implementing a 21st century approach to their curriculum.
If you’ve been thinking about creating a makerspace in your classroom, here are just some of the many reasons to help you decide to do it!
Schools have historically categorized failure as something to be avoided at all costs. Nothing epitomizes this more than the dreaded 50 circled in red on a test paper. The fear and embarrassment that goes along with the grade is often times the only motivation a student has to try again. However, we miss the mark when we teach students that failure is a negative and something to fear. When in fact, failure is part of the learning process. Failure teaches students that we can learn from our mistakes, persevere, and try again. In doing so, failure becomes part of the journey, not the destination. Makerspaces give students an opportunity to fail multiple times before achieving success without the fear, stigma, or negative connotations. If you have any doubt, just think about the fact that Thomas Edison tried to get his invention to work 1000 times before there was light. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."
Inspires Curiosity and Wonder
Ever wonder what you can do if given the opportunity and materials to do it? Wait, isn’t that what schools are supposed to do? Yes, but how much of that really goes on? More time is spent on developing rote memory than exercising curiosity. Makerspaces create a space where students are encouraged to tinker and find new ways of using materials to create something new, something from their imagination, and something they can be proud of.
Builds Problem Solving Skills
While adults problem solve on a daily basis, students seldom get the opportunity because their parents do it for them. Figuring how to maneuver through a hectic schedule, making alternative choices, and finding quick solutions to everyday problems is a skill we master from experience. In a makerspace, these types of thinking skills are built into every project. It requires students to think of solutions and make decisions at every step of the making process in order to achieve a finished product.
Builds Engagement in School
I don’t know about you, but when I look back at when I was in school, I was excited the most to get to school on those days when I was working on a project either in science, art, or an extra curricular activity. So you better believe I wouldn’t be absent on those days for anything in the world. I bet you felt the same way, so why wouldn’t our students today feel that way too? A makerspace builds engagement between students and their school. It taps into their fascination with making and creating, which is instinctive in all of us, and creates an emotional and physical bond. Because the making is done in school, the rest of the subjects benefit from the student’s engagement as well.
Provides Opportunities for Collaboration
Remember the last time you collaborated with a colleague on a project? Sure, you had differences but you learned to compromise and value someone else’s opinion. That’s what collaboration teaches. Collaboration is high on the list for 21st century skills. Most industries today rely on collaboration between their employees to maximize their potential. Students love working with partners due to their social nature. Makerspaces provide opportunities for those interactions and teach students about how to express themselves and, in return, accept other’s opinions and ideas.
Creates Pathways to Design Based Thinking and Innovation
Makerspaces are a perfect place to inject design thinking and innovation into the curriculum. Nowhere is the application of these two types of thinking better taught than in a makerspace. After all, why design something if you can’t make it, test it, fix it, then test it again? Makerspaces make it possible for students to go through the design process, and more importantly learn about empathy and prototyping. It creates a real connection between the mind and the hands, while also teaching them the necessary executive functioning skills needed to complete a project.
While the learning that happens in a makerspace is not always visible or data driven, it is no less important. The skills students need to succeed in the future may very well come from working with their hands while they design, create, problem solve, and think critically in a makerspace.