Creating a makerspace – what are the next steps?

We are working our way through the steps we will need to create a makerspace or innovation center at our school.  This week, I was asked to respond to a number of questions that may allow us to get some funding for this project.  I am adapting my responses into a blog post to keep a record of the steps we will need to complete to come up with a successful model.

What you are trying to accomplish

We want to develop a center for innovation at St. Anthony School.

Every day more is written about makerspaces and the benefits these centers offer students. We have experimented with Makey Makey kits and littleBits in the past, but now we want to take a more comprehensive approach.

Our idea is to create a center for innovation in our school for the use of our students and the wider community. The components of this center are certainly up for discussion, but the important idea is to create a space for creativity and innovation in our school and a concept that can be shared with other schools in the years to come.

 

How will  integrating “making” into the classroom contribute to developing a new culture of learning?

This is a segment from the first blog post I read on Maker Spaces written by Eric Sheninger, the author of Digital Leadership.  This is the post that got me first thinking about how to develop a makerspace in the school.

Over the past couple of months, the staff at New Milford High School has been diligently creating our own unique learning environments for our students. Building on the success of our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative and with the addition of a new, innovative staff member two noteworthy advancements have been made since September 2013. That new staff member is Laura Fleming and she has done nothing less than blaze a trail since joining the NMHS team. She embraced the autonomy that she was given in a position that functions as a librarian, media specialist, and educational technology integrator to push the envelop. Lucky for her, NMHS already had many innovative teachers on staff and students yearning for changes in how and where they can learn since NMHS is an ancient building (i.e. 1928).

LED stools at the Little Bits bar at NMHS
LED stools at the Little Bits bar at NMHS

Creating Our Own Unique Learning Environments

One of the most amazing transformations that has taken place at NMHS is the creation of the Makerspace in what was our traditional library. A space that could once be compared to a barren wasteland is now a thriving learning metropolis where students flock to tinker, invent, create, collaborate, work, and most importantly, learn. When I hired Laura I basically told her what her budget was and that she had complete control of how she wanted to use the money. I could never have imagined how quickly she could radically transform this outdated space, using money that in the past had always been spent on books, magazines, and electronic databases. Some quick highlights include the following:

 

For a comprehensive listing of important articles on Makerspaces, Luc Lalande from the University of Ottawa – one of our partners – has provided these reference articles:

 The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism

Meet the Makers

The DIY ethos has spilled into schools, reminding educators how much students can learn when they use their hands.

The maker empowered student: Activating agency with a sensitivity to design

What can educators learn from the maker movement?

Innovation Spaces: Supporting individual actionmaker 2

Maker Education: A “Good” 2013-14 Educational Trend

Why the Maker Movement matters to educators

3D Printing Will Be Adopted by K-12 in 5 Years

I would add another article that I read today:

 How to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven

one quote from the article:

 

Kids want to make an impact on the world and very often they are more motivated by contributing to the common good than to anything else. Many kids will design and build incredible things, but then put their templates online so someone else can improve on it. Those are the qualities educators should try to nurture in students. “All we have to do is open up the classroom doors a little bit and let them change the world,” Martinez said. “Because they want to.”

 

 What is the value of the project to kids & community?

The most important idea is empowerment, this is expressed best in the Mind/Shift article:

“Perhaps one of the most inspiring results of the Maker Movement is the creative confidence young people are developing. “The best thing that happens is a student completely exceeds your expectations,” Martinez said. And when students do things they didn’t realize they could do, they feel empowered.”

Who are your  partners?

This is one of the great joys of this project – we are bringing people together from many different sectors – there is a great creative synergy within this group!

Luc Lalande – Director of University of Ottawa Entrepreneurship Hub

Tracy Crowe – Assistant Director, University of Ottawa Faculty of Education

Marlaina Loveys – Blockheads Learning

Allison Burnett – Algonquin College

Rick Alexanderson – St. Peter High School Personal Robot Teaching Environment

 

The link to the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education is especially important as we are expecting to recruit student teachers who want to work on and develop the innovation center at St. Anthony.

One important idea – we feel we will need a Maker Week to introduce this concept to teachers and students. Our partners will help us to develop a ‘Maker Week’ where various aspects of maker culture are introduced to students and staff over a five-day period.

One of our partners, Marlaina Loveys has come up with a wonderful way to jump start our Maker Week:

I have been giving some thought to what type of fun event we could do to get everyone excited about the Innovation Centre.  I would like to propose that we select a theme – LEGO Stop Action Movies.

I am envisioning each class have the opportunity to be inspired by previewing some LEGO stop action movies (I can pull together a bunch from You Tube) then the teachers/students (I would love to be there too 🙂 brainstorm to decide on a theme or ideas for their Stop Action Movies.  I would provide all the LEGO for a hands on activity where they build the scenes and we could use the school IPads and either the LEGO movies, Stop Motion or Windows Movie Maker software (all free) to create the movies.

watching lego movies?
watching lego movies?

Then, we could have a school movie “night” where the whole school could watch the movies.  We could incorporate a lot of other maker/entrepreneurial activities into the movie night event.  For example:

  • Students create posters and tickets for the event
  • Make it a drive in theatre theme and use cardboard boxes for students to create cars.  Goes with the idea Allison had about cardboard creation.  I will send a separate e-mail with some pics I found on Pinterest of these types of creations others have made.
  • Maker Junior – maybe she could come up with some sort of wiring/lighting maker project to add to the movie night
  • Concession stand to sell popcorn/juice, etc. which could be an entrepreneurial project for the older students which links back with Luc

These are the kind of ideas that will make this such a special project!

I will continue to use this blog to record the progress we are making towards the innovation center.  What, I wonder will be the next step?

 

 

 

 

 

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