Makerspace 101: Makerspace basics and how to get started

Elementary School/Middle School/High School

You’ve probably had students who think learning is a process of absorbing information like a sponge. They sit there and stare, expecting the knowledge to seep into their brains effortlessly.

But as we know, learning is an active process—not a passive one. Learners have to get their hands dirty … become wildly dazed and confused at times … ask questions … and, most of all, create new neural pathways in their brain.

Enter the makerspace

…where new things are created, connections are made, and learning is fun (imagine that!)

In part one of our three-part series on makerspaces, you’ll learn all about what a makerspace is, how it can make some of your students go from “What time is class over?“ to “I don’t want to leave yet!” … and how to start building a makerspace of your own.

Read on to learn more.

 

What’s a makerspace? A makerspace is a time and place for people to create … invent … tinker … explore … experiment … and discover using a variety of materials. It’s also a mindset, with creativity as its foundation and inquiry as its cornerstone.

 

Why have a makerspace?  Having a dedicated space for making sends a message to the students that making is an important part of learning. You probably already have the beginnings of a makerspace in your classroom when your students do hands-on activities.

 

Where can a makerspace be located? It can be a corner in a classroom, library, or hallway—or any space with one or more tables or benches to work on, as well as one or more boxes, shelves, cabinets, or carts to store tools and materials.

 

What do students learn in a makerspace? In a makerspace, students learn to observe and explore the world. They use an assortment of materials to compare and contrast, sort, count, learn patterns, and design solutions. They experiment. They practice. They collaborate. They take responsibility.

 

How do we use a makerspace? We use a makerspace to enhance the teaching you already do. It’s always tied to instruction and the curriculum. Often, students and teachers together decide on the details of the makerspace.

 

What’s in a makerspace? Think of your curriculum and the materials that would support it. Remember, the materials don’t define a makerspace. It’s actually the curriculum and student interest that guide the substance of the makerspace.

 

How do we get started building a makerspace?

 

  • Designate an available space. It could be a corner of your classroom, the school library, or an entire room. It could also be shared space within your school, district, or community. Get creative and think outside the box—and outside the classroom!

 

  • Fill the makerspace with simple hands-on materials. Collect common household supplies for building, making, and creating. Think: empty plastic containers, recyclables, construction paper, popsicle sticks, yarn, glue, etc.

 

  • It doesn’t have to be high-tech—but it can be. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, computers, laptops, tablets, or other classroom technology in your school, consider adding these.

 

  • Other technology could include digital and non-digital cameras, old or used microscopes, or old electronics that can be taken apart and re-purposed (such as VCRs and DVD players)

 

  • Take it to the next level and keep it sustainable: enlist other teachers and administrators to set up a school-wide makerspace. When school leaders are involved and excited, you might get a larger makerspace along with funding for materials. Involve students and parents to help keep the makerspace organized and well-stocked with new and interesting materials.

Don’t be afraid to get imaginative—maybe even a little “mad scientist”—with your makerspace. The creativity can rub off on your students. As Einstein said: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Need some more suggestions to get started? Download our STEM/Makerspace Recommended Materials List here.
 

OK, this all sounds great, right? But what if you just don’t have the money to put a makerspace together?

Check out part two of our makerspace series, Building a Makerspace on a Shoestring Budget, right here.

 

If you have any questions about makerspaces or anything else, just ask the Ward’s Science Plus Us team at sciencehelp@vwr.com. Our in-house scientists and technicians are ready to answer even the toughest questions.

 
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