This week’s vlog is about the connection between physical activity and learning in the classroom and the research behind this. Learn from Mark Hubbard, Paragon’s President, and stay tuned for our upcoming vlogs and blogs.These blogs and vlogs are aimed to help K-12 schools create environments that foster active learning and enable it to flourish.

Watch now, and tell us what you think in the comments section below. Be sure to keep up with us on social media to stay updated on new insights from our team!

Come back next week when Mark discusses Sensory Ergonomics.

Are you a school looking to transform your learning spaces?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Each week, Mark Hubbard Paragon’s President, will be posting a 2-minute vlog that aims to help K-12 schools create environments that foster active learning and enable it to flourish.  We are calling the vlog series, “Transforming K-12 Learning Spaces”.

This week’s vlog is about Collaborative Learning.  Watch now, and tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Come back next week when Mark discusses Sensory Ergonomics.

When you are designing a maker space, you’ll want to make sure the space promotes creativity and collaboration. You can encourage both of these traits through the design of the space itself. How do you do that? Watch this week’s vlog post entitled, “How Do You Create A Maker Space In Your School” by Mark Hubbard.

You can have really powerful experiences with kids and not spend a lot of money on your maker space.

Watch Mark this week as he discuss, “Tips for Equipping a Maker Space on a Budget”.

And thanks to Convergence Design Lab for allowing Paragon® to showcase one of their maker spaces in this vlog post.

Check out the Digital Atelier @ Tilden High School and see how Convergence Design Lab designed the space to advance STEAM literacies and interest-powered learning!

Cannot embed video source. You can view it here:

Are you looking for a template to follow when designing high-quality maker space experiences? In their book Invent to Learn, authors Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager describe these eight characteristics of a good maker space project:

  • Purpose and relevance. Is the project personally meaningful to students, so they feel invested in it?
  • Time. Have you given students enough time to plan, carry out, test, and revise their work?
  • Complexity. Does the problem require knowledge from multiple subject areas to solve?
  • Intensity. Does the project provide an outlet for students to deeply engage with the material?
  • Connection. Are students collaborating with each other or connecting with powerful ideas and/or experts from around the world to solve a problem?
  • Access. Do students have sufficient access to materials and information to complete their project?
  • Shareability. Does the project provide an opportunity for students to share their work with an authentic audience outside of school?
  • Novelty. Does the project represent a fresh idea? (If you’re assigning the same tasks to students every year, they can simply draw upon prior students’ experiences rather than reaching their own discoveries.)

A 2016 survey of K-12 leaders from the Center for Digital Education reveals why more schools are moving toward active learning.

In the survey, K-12 leaders said active learning is more engaging and effective than a traditional lecture-based approach to instruction, and it also helps build teamwork and other 21st century skills that are needed for success in the workplace.

A separate survey of company executives by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that working well together as a team to make decisions and solve problems is the No. 1 skill that employers most value among new hires—and active learning helps students develop this critical skill.

Want further proof? A study published by the National Academy of Sciences confirms the benefits of active learning on student achievement.

The study compared the performance of students in undergraduate math and science classes under traditional lecturing versus active learning.

It found that average scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections—and that students in classes with traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes with active learning.

What’s more, active learning gives students opportunities to move around during class, which delivers both academic and health-related benefits.

Movement increases blood flow, which awakens our cells and stimulates our brains—so students feel more alert and can focus better.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that physical activity “can have an impact on cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention, as well as improved classroom behavior.”

By taking a more active role in their education, students learn more while also taking ownership of learning process. As a result, they learn to become independent thinkers and problem solvers. As one teacher was quoted in the Washington Post:


Active learning is…

  • More engaging: Higher student engagement is the No. 1 benefit of active learning, K-12 leaders say.
  • More effective: 86% of K-12 leaders say active learning improves student outcomes.
  • Helps build 21st century skills: 75% of K-12 leaders say the teamwork skills that students develop through active learning are critical for career success.

(Source: Center for Digital Education, 2016)

Active learning is an instructional approach in which students take an active and fully engaged role in their education, rather than sitting passively and absorbing information.

This might involve several different kinds of activities, such as class discussions, hands-on learning, collaborative group work, or other dynamic approaches to instruction.

Active learning is more engaging than just sitting and taking notes while a teacher is talking.

It’s more effective than traditional instruction, and it also helps build critical 21st-century skills that employers desire.

When students are actively engaged in their learning, they are thinking, creating, sharing, communicating, and constructing new knowledge.

They are also taking ownership of their education. For these reasons, active learning is replacing the old-school “sit and get” approach to instruction in many classrooms nationwide.




For active learning to be successful, however, a number of important elements must be in place.

For instance, teachers need to be taught proven strategies for leading active learning in their classrooms.

They need support structures to help them implement these strategies effectively, while overcoming their fears of trying something new in front of their students.

And they need the right kind of classroom environment to support and encourage active learning—which includes the design of the learning space and how student desks and tables are configured.

When you are designing a maker space, you’ll want to make sure the space promotes creativity and collaboration. You can encourage both of those traits through the design of the space itself. Here are some ideas to guide you.

  • Ask students what they want. Giving students a voice in the design of the space can inspire their ingenuity.
  • Build flexibility into the design of the space. Use furniture that can be arranged easily in many different configurations to promote different kinds of student groupings and activities.
  • Take inspiration from the “stations” approach to classroom design that is common in elementary schools. Consider creating separate areas for different kinds of activities, and equip each area as appropriate.
  • Include open, informal spaces for students to gather together, brainstorm and bounce ideas off one other. Soft seating options can make the space comfortable and inviting for students to congregate.

Let Paragon Furniture help you design the space itself using our MAKER FARM™ Series Tables and Boards. Contact us today at 800.451.8546.

Launching a successful maker space program requires training teachers to use the space effectively with their students. Teachers must learn not only how to design high-quality projects, but also how to transition into a new role they might not feel comfortable with.

Instead of passing along knowledge to students as the “sage on the stage,” teachers must step aside and let students work through challenges and make discoveries for themselves.

Teachers need to shift their role away from being providers of content and toward becoming “designers of learning experiences,” says Mindy Faber, co-director of the Convergence Design Lab project in Chicago. “Learning how to set up structures, design environments, use space effectively, and curate technologies and resources strategically—that is the future role of the teacher.”

This shift in mindset from leading a teacher-centric to a student-centric learning environment can be difficult. It’s a fundamentally different way of approaching instruction, Faber says—and many teachers don’t know how to teach this way. “It’s not part of their pre-service education,” she notes.

Here’s some advice for helping teachers make this shift.

  • Lead with the “why.” School leaders should explain not just how teaching should be different in a maker space, but why. When students take ownership of the creative process, learning becomes much more rich and meaningful to them—and when teachers understand these benefits, they are more likely to embrace this change.
  • Create a culture of innovation. School leaders must create a culture that encourages risk-taking among staff. This involves making sure that teachers know it’s OK to make mistakes, and rewarding teachers for trying something new or different.
  • Observe other maker spaces in action. Have teachers visit other schools, watch exemplary maker space teaching, ask questions, and learn from others’ successes.
  • Pair teachers with maker space mentors. Have teachers co-teach in the maker space with other teachers who have more experience in this kind of environment, so they can learn from a mentor until they are ready to try it for themselves.
  • Let teachers become the students. Hold training workshops in which teachers have an opportunity to explore and create in the maker space for themselves. As teachers discover the possibilities that exist in the space, they can begin to think about how to apply these possibilities to student projects.
In my last blog post, I highlighted four questions that can help you plan an effective maker space for students. Once you have a plan for how your maker space will be used, you can design the actual space itself. Here are five design aspects you’ll want to consider.
How you plan to use your maker space will influence what kind of space you choose to host it. For instance, if you want the space to be used by students or members of the public after school hours, you’ll want a location that is easily accessible from outside without having to traverse the school hallways. Here are some ideas for current school spaces that can be converted into a maker space fairly easily. But don’t confine your thinking to these suggestions; your only real limit is your imagination.
  • classroom.
  • A science lab. Most middle and high school science labs already have sinks, which can be useful for cleaning up after projects, as well as cabinets for storing materials.
  • The library. School libraries are centrally accessible to students across all grade levels, and they’re often open after school already. Many schools have converted part of their library into a maker space as they replace their reference collections with digital versions.
  • A computer lab. Instead of replacing old computers with newer desktop versions, some enterprising schools have replaced their outdated machines with laptops, tablets, 3D printers, electronics kits, and other fabrication tools.
  • A home economics or industrial arts shop. These subjects have fallen out of favor in recent years, and a maker space would be a greatway to revitalize these spaces.
When you’re designing a maker space, you’ll want to make sure the space promotes creativity and collaboration. You can encourage both of those traits through the design of the space itself. Here are some ideas to guide you.
  • Ask students what they want. Giving students a voice in the design of the space can inspire their ingenuity.
  • Build flexibility into the design of the space. Use furniture that can be arranged easily in many different configurations to promote different kinds of student groupings and activities.
  • Take inspiration from the “stations” approach to classroom design that is common in elementary schools. Consider creating separate areas for different kinds of activities, and equip each area as appropriate.
  • Include open, informal spaces for students to gather together, brainstorm, and bounce ideas off one other. Soft seating options can make the space comfortable and inviting for students to congregate.
Tools and materials
The tools and materials you choose for the space will depend on your goals for its use, as well as your budget. Here are some of the types of materials you might consider.
  • Equipment and machinery such as computers, laptops, tablets, video monitors, 3D printers, laser cutters, and vinyl cutters.
  • Electronics kits and components for building simple circuits, machines, computer motherboards, and robotics. Commercial kits include littleBits, Makey Makey, Raspberry Pi, and Arduinos.
  • Digital media production tools such as cameras, tripods, green screens, video editing software, keyboards, turntables, music composition software, and graphic design software.
  • Materials to create with, such as paints, paper, cardboard, plastics, wood, fabrics, and metals.
  • Tools for cutting, joining, and splicing, such as scissors, wire cutters, glue guns, soldering irons, hand tools, and power tools.
Storage and utility
Your maker space must be functional. It should be large enough for students to work without getting in each others’ way. It also should include plenty of shelf or cabinet space to store equipment safely. Here are some key questions to think about.
  • Does the space have adequate power supplies and internet access?
  • Do desks and tables include large surfaces for working?
  • Are materials easy to find? Consider using clear or mesh containers for storing materials so they are easily visible, or at least clearly label their containers.
  • Are cleaning supplies easily accessible for cleaning up the space when you’re done using it?
  • Have you set aside space to showcase student projects? Students love to see their works displayed, and past projects can serve as inspiration for a new wave of creations.
Keeping students safe as they work in the maker space is vital. Students must learn the proper use of, and respect for, tools and equipment. Students also should understand the rules for the space, and these rules should be clearly posted. Here are some other safety considerations:
  • Make sure you provide enough space for tools to be used safely, as well as safety equipment such as goggles and earplugs.
  • Keep all pathways and exits clear.
  • Make sure the space is well lit and ventilated. Make sure it’s equipped with a firstaid kit and a fire extinguisher.
  • Make sure students clean up after every use to keep the space free from clutter.