Innovation and design, the way businesses and industry thrive.  As a kid, did you ever build a fort out of couch cushions or from that oversized box that the refrigerator shipped in?  Did you encounter any obstacles or change your plans as the building commenced?

Makerspaces aren’t anything new.  From soap box racing, to basement forts, kids have been building and playing with materials to solve problems for years.  So has there been a change?  Jason Wik argues that we don’t need to create a maker movement, but rather a maker revival.  Students have already been innovating for years through science and cultural fairs, to name a few, we have now started to incorporate more technologies into these spaces.  From combing STEM practices (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to STEAM practices, with the addition of Art, we can foster curiosity through inquiry for all of our students.

Qué es la educación STEAM? - 330ohmsSo what does Steam look like in our classrooms?  Well firstly, it relies on providing and teaching students the maker toolset which includes electronics, 3-D modelling, Robotics, and Coding, to name a few.  In the above Ted Talk, Jason Wik presents a model where we can navigate STEAM in the classrooms.  His 6 step approach begins with choosing a theme or an issue.  What problem or interest area do the students want to work in? The second step is building a demo.  Third comes the play testing of the idea or prototype and then the creation of a final prototype plan.  Now like all great innovators, feedback will be needed on the prototype.  Students can collect this feedback from their classmates and teachers, or whomever else they seek assistance from.  Lastly, they are ready to showcase and present their ideas to the larger audience.

Design and Technology CO2 Dragster Competition – Carey ...My experiences with Makerspaces has been ongoing since the start of my career.  I never called them Makerspaces however.  They were inquiry driven projects in the classes that I was teaching, Arts Education and PAA (Shop).  One of my favourite projects was to prototype, build, and race CO2 cars with my Grade 7 students.  From the design phase, to building styrofoam prototypes, to the construction and use of tools in the shop, the students all wanted to own the title of the fastest car. Frustrations with designs always happened, learning the shape and design of the car still needed to include proper placement of axels and wheels.  Then came the painting and designing of the cars.  From cars that were painting to look like pencils, to teaching them how to airbrush, or the most unique hydro dipping their cars, the project always turned out successful.

Fortunately at my first school, I also saw some real innovation occur when our math teacher began a robotics club within the school.  Students would be able to modify the look of the robots, learn to write coding and programming for the robots, and then they travelled to competitions in Western Canada to compete with their robots.  The success they found was such a boost for these students.  They were able to find a passion within the school that did not include playing sports or more conventional extra curricular activities.

Facebook Post from my former school hosting a VEX Robotic Challenge in 2020.

Upon reflection, makerspaces occur in most classrooms I currently am connected with.  The inquiry and curiosity students undertake with projects amazes me every time I introduce something to my classes.  Makerspaces are accessible and available to all students.  Like everything, some students will excel in the freedom of choice and direction of their projects, where others will need more assurance that they are on the right track.  Technology is only a small part of a makerspace, those with the advanced technological skills may find some of it easier to navigate such as coding and 3D printing, but that’s the great thing of makerspaces, it allows students the opportunity to learn new skills and overcome design issues by creating some resiliency within them.  Every road has a few bumps in it, no different than a makerspace project, and in the end we want all of our students to become innovators in their own capacity.  What’s a makerspace activity that you have found successful with your students?