They have been taking schools—and not necessarily affluent schools—by storm, workshops called makerspaces. Jennifer Cooper describes them in her 2013 Edutopia article, “Designing a school makerspace,”
“Makerspaces provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering and tinkering. . . A makerspace is not solely a science lab, woodshop, computer lab or art room, but it may contain elements found in all of these familiar spaces. Therefore, it must be designed to accommodate a wide range of activities, tools and materials. Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design, making and exploration process . . .”
Jennifer offers a possible range of activities for makerspaces: cardboard construction, prototyping, woodworking, electronics, robotics, digital fabrication, building bicycles and kinetic machines, and textiles and sewing.
Here is a short list of Search Associates international schools with thriving makerspaces: The International School of Nido de Aguilas Santiago, Chile—which has two, one for its early years and elementary school and one for the middle and high school; the International School of Beijing, where newly built “collaboratories” and several flexible learning spaces were part of recent extensive renovations; the NIST International School in Thailand; and the International School of Ho Chi Minh City, whose brand new secondary school offers an Innovation Center, technologically advanced classrooms, and collaborative learning spaces.
Dale Dougherty, founder of Make Media, which produces Maker Faire and Make Magazine, says any school can “incorporate making and tinkering into their schools and classrooms—often on a shoestring budget.” He gives three powerful reasons why makerspaces are vital for schools, libraries, and community centers:
“They promote learning through play and experimentation. They’re cross-disciplinary, with elements of art, science and craftsmanship. They offer tools and materials that encourage students to create rather than consume.”
In her 2014 blog for ISTE, “Create a school makerspace in 3 easy steps,” Nicole Krueger says that Dougherty and other makerspace advocates advise to first, “secure some space. . . Makerspaces can be “tucked into hallways and the corners of classrooms.” She talks about reinventing spaces that have been shut down. Next, he advises “Put stuff in it.” Assign students to make something new from discarded materials! They will have a good experience no matter what. Dale adds, “Just get it started, and then reach out to engage your community. . . You can create a space for kids that becomes richer and richer over time . . . You’d be surprised. People have tools and materials they don’t use and would love to donate.” Finally, Dale exclaims, “Invite the kids to play.” The point is the tinkering, the exploration. Give the kids a place to start, but developing a curriculum runs a risk of falling into rigidity.
Makerspaces invite creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, skill-building, and a lot of fun. Who wouldn't want more of that?