In the United States, a trend has been established to encourage STEM learning (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through Makerspaces and other critical thinking programs. Makerspaces are providing the needed for space for human collaboration and teamwork which can include the use of anything from 3D printers to Robotics equipment to hand tools to Legos.
What Is a Makerspace?
If you are not familiar with a Makerspace, first know that a Makerspace is a designated place in a school, a university, a library, or any other educational setting set up with tools for various trades. It is a workspace for learners to collaborate, engage, practice, and work together to encourage the spread of knowledge and learning. Makerspaces can be set up for every kind of artisan, and are now becoming a very popular option in modern and new libraries, high schools, trade schools, and especially on university campuses’. Makerspaces encourage the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills for students of all ages.
What Are the Key Elements of a Great Makerspace?
Space- A Makerspace more than anything else should primarily be a space that allows opportunities for creativity. Although there is importance in having relevant tools to a certain trade in your Makerspace, it is arguably just as important if not more important to have a large open space with even the most basic materials such as cardboard, wood, nails, a hammer, glue, tape, scissors, and even Play-Dough.
Professionals/Teachers- Any great Makerspace encourages growth by having proper supervision or oversight of any workspace or place. Teachers, educators, scientists, and other professionals need to be present in Makerspaces in order to make them functional. Without proper supervision and instruction students may be clueless about what are the first steps to take regarding a project, an assignment, or a personal interest and or endeavor.
Skill Set/Instructions- Students and learners need to have been given proper instruction regarding using equipment and machinery in a Makerspace. Without proper instruction, which includes giving students’ information regarding occupational health and safety, students will not be able to properly and safely operate equipment. When learning in a Makerspace learners should also have a basic idea of the concepts they need to understand in order to learn safely in a Makerspace. One way to ensure that students are prepared to use a Makerspace is to provide adequate supervision, as mentioned previously. Tasks given to students should also not be too advanced for the student’s skill set or level.
What Can You Find in a Makerspace?
If you are just beginning to create a Makerspace, think about resources you have at home. If you are a teacher, ask your students to contribute materials such as strong, old PVC pipes, jars and glasses, wire, soda cans, and anything else that they might have at home. You can begin a tool loaning system, where students can bring tools that they have at home to share with their peers, just to initiate your makerspace. Students may have hot glue guns, screwdrivers, nails, pliers, sewing materials, needles, spray paint, markers, old newspapers, plastic tablecloths, egg cartons, cardboard cereal boxes and many other items. The first step is to get creative! If you are establishing a new Makerspace use the resources that you have, and build your space from there.
How Can You Fund a Makerspace?
Of course, also to run an effective Makerspace you will need funding. Consider all aspects of how to develop and begin your makerspace in the initial planning stages. Talk to your school administration, and your engineering, math, science, and even art teachers. Reach out to parents of your students and send home letters requesting materials. If you are creating a Makerspace in a library, a university or a community center consider charging space rental dues or membership dues. You can also charge fees for classes and workshops to generate revenue. Lastly, also consider if there are opportunities to apply for grants, or if there are individual companies or foundations that are interested in sponsoring the development of your Makerspace.
Perfect Addition to Learning Spaces Everywhere!
Regardless of what kind of Makerspace you are interested in creating you will need creativity, space, teachers, skills, and of course, learners and funding! Makerspaces are becoming a popular option for teaching STEM subjects and encouraging the growth and development of critical thinking, reasoning and analysis skills, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Whether or not you have a 3D printer, a laser cutter, or egg cartons and cereal boxes to introduce your Makerspace, Makerspaces are the perfect addition to any learning space all over the globe!
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