Vanessa Bianchi
Educator and learner. The opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the York Region District School Board.

I can’t remember the first time I was introduced to the term “Maker”, or the first maker lab I had heard of or read about, or even what exactly drew me into such a fascinating creative culture. What I can remember however is the enchantment I felt at the idea of a hub where those who wanted to create, play and build, could gather to share thoughts, materials and ideas. When I decide to pilot an idea in my classroom, it’s usually based on some combination of whimsy, art and intrigue. Armed with the research I have done or the places I have seen or been, I dive in. This is how a new creative space in our classroom community was born – our  Makerspace.

“Define yourself by acts of creation rather than consumption”

Dale Dougherty, The Art of Tinkering

When the idea was conceived, I did not have curricular expectations in mind for the creation of this area in my room. I wanted to see what students might make if given some inspiration, space, materials and like-minds. Though not yet apparent, I’m hopeful that what our students might create may be multidisciplinary and infact target many curricular expectations. Although I did not set out to see curriculum for assessment purposes at the inception of this space, maker culture is in part predicated on the notion that the greatest achievements come from simply getting your hands dirty, evolving and doing.

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When I began to dig a little deeper into the notion of a Makerspace, I discovered that this idea was born out of what some may consider counterculture and knew that my students would relish in the idea of making, simply to see what they might create rather than to serve a purpose. I found that this was the exact philosophy behind a Makerspace and the maker culture in general, deeming it to be a place;

“open for informal, unscheduled activity (and) in some cases, an organization will host scheduled classes in (the space). These classes are generally not for credit and focus on a single skill, such as coding, soldering, or woodcarving. Supplies such as cardboard, plastic, metal, gears, wood, and batteries may be on hand, and available tools may include anything from a welding machine to a laser cutter. But certain materials and tools are emblematic of makerspaces, such as microcontrollers called Arduinos and 3D printers, valuable for fast prototyping. As the notion of providing space for project design and construction has caught on in education, such places have acquired other accoutrements, from paints and easels and impromptu stage sets to cooktops and candy molds. Used by students, faculty, and staff, on in education, such places have acquired other accoutrements, from paints and easels and impromptu stage sets to cooktops and candy molds. Used by students, faculty, and staff, er, try out solutions, and hear input from colleagues with similar interests.”

7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces

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My goal for my students this year was to find their passion and attempt to create something that would reflect their individual personalities and help build confidence in their abilities to create and solve problems. I found that for some students, figuring out what they loved did not come easily and that sometimes having access to things helped. This offered students an opportunity to “tinker” or make, to see what they enjoyed doing most.

The Makerspace has aligned beautifully with The Passion Project, has allowed students who may not have found their niche yet to try something new and has made our classroom come alive with productivity and creativity. The intent for the space is that every two to four weeks the provocations and materials set out for the students will be changed. (Provocations: deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of the children.Teachers provide materials, media, and general direction as needed, but the children take the ideas where they want. This allows children to develop skills of creativity, inventiveness and flexibility in thinking, planning and reflecting.)

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In this manner students will be able to attempt something that they may not have ever made before, possibly extending on a project they had already began. Students will research and discuss and ultimately attempt to make something by the end of each maker session. Logistically speaking, students can enter into the Makerspace when they have completed a curricular task, when they have down-time or when they find that they are stuck on another challenge and wish to shift gears to help spark creativity.

Our Makerspace has now been up and running for three weeks and thus far the space has been entirely positive. Students have been tidy and, to my delight, have even paired up for projects which has afforded them time to work on collaboration and conflict resolution skills

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One of the best examples of a school-based Makerspace I have come across in my research calls their area a CoLaboratory What a lovely way to sum up not only a beautiful space but one that seeks to ignite the fire of thought. Isn’t that what school is meant to do?

Currently our space is setup to investigate building and architecture. Other spaces to come include, but are not limited to:

  • A Print Shop
  • Makey Makeys, Arduinos and Robotics
  • Photography
  • Mixed Media, Collage and Wire Works
  • Wax and Paint

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There is a need for educators to provide spaces for students and inquirers to tinker, test and play with things and thoughts in the communities that they have created.When armed with a space, some research, a few tools, new materials and collaborators, students have the propensity to create and test new thoughts rather than to retell old ones. In this way students can find the educational resources already in existence and use them to make or test a new theory. This, I believe, is the goal of 21st century learners and educators. Perhaps all we need are more spaces in our learning environment that foster those wonders and give relevance and value to the ideas children have.

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While I hope that one day my classroom space will inspire those beyond the walls of room 217, what I hope for the short term is that my students feel that our mini Makerspace provides an avenue for them to challenge their thoughts, theories and ideas; One that inspires and ignites question and thought and inevitably some answers!

“We are creatures who need to make. It’s how we learn who we are”

Frank Bidart, The Art of Tinkering

The Evolving Educator

 

Filed under: The Third Teacher, Uncategorized

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  1. Jackie Sankey:
    You are well in front of the needed paradigm shift in education. Hopefully more educators will follow suit. A beautiful initiative Vanessa.
  2. vanessa bianchi:
    Thanks Jackie! You should try creating a Makerspace in your classroom too! Maybe a club?
  3. Kelly Maggirias:
    Thanks for sharing! What a fantastic idea. I enjoyed your classroom and think it's great that you change materials helping students find their niche. This is definitely a modern 21st century classroom.
  4. What a great post! I find myself reading and re-reading it! It has really inspired me to look into makers paces and I thank you for that! I'm thinking of trying it with my 4/5 SSC students next year! I would love to pick your brain about it one day!? Amy Smith @smithers_amy
The Evolving Educator
JUST A MOMENT, PLEASE