The “maker movement” is catching on in education, and it’s easy to see why.
Looking to inspire the next generation of tinkerers and innovators, a growing number of schools are creating maker spaces equipped with everything from popsicle sticks and glue guns to electronics kits and 3D printers.
When educators encourage students to learn by creating, they inspire students to take ownership of their learning. Students become highly engaged and invested in their education.
In the process, students can learn not only key STEM concepts (like how an electronic circuit works or what the engineering design process entails), but also 21st-century skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, critical thinking, creativity, and perseverance.
The maker movement isn’t really a new concept. “Montessori said that when you work with your head, your heart, and your hands, it all works together,” says Sylvia Martinez, co-author of the book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom. Learning by creating “is good pedagogy,” she says, explaining that the idea can be traced from Rousseau to John Dewey, Piaget, and others throughout history.
But one thing that’s different today is the sophistication of the tools that are available to students.
As recently as 10 years ago, K-12 students would not have been able to design a machine and then fabricate parts for that machine. Now, with the help of widely accessible design programs and 3D printers, “any sixth grader can do that in a single class period,” says Trevor Shaw, director of technology for the Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey and a leader in the maker movement for education.
“It’s such an empowering experience,” he observes.
Creating a maker space for your schools might seem like a daunting task. With this guide, we hope to make the process easier.
Within these pages, you’ll find questions and strategies to consider as you define your vision and goals, design and equip your maker space, and help teachers shift their mindset to take full advantage of the space with their students.