At a glance
- The creativity that happens in a makerspace doesn’t ultimately depend on any specific equipment. The process is what matters.
- Students naturally are makers. That said, there are excellent resources available to help you get the most out of your makerspace.
(Editor’s Note: Pitsco TAG member Sheryl Sotelo shares some of her
insights about makerspaces in this piece adapted from a blog post she
authored originally for NSTA Blog.)
FITZ CREEK, AK – All students can benefit from the maker mind-set,
which encourages them to believe they can learn to do anything.
As you likely already know, the maker movement is a resurgence of
creating and making things by people of all ages and backgrounds.
Learning through making can happen across a range of contexts and
curricular areas and can be leveraged for inspiration and powerful
I have been a special services teacher and a regular classroom
teacher for 31 years. I worked as an Einstein fellow in Washington,
D.C., at the National Science Foundation in 2013-2014 and became
very involved with the maker movement at that time. I now work as a
STEM outreach specialist and help students and teachers doing STEM
activities with a maker emphasis, sharing all I learned in my fellowship
as well as in my classroom practice. I work mainly in Alaska, traveling to
villages and rural schools.
Getting back to making, it can happen in a variety of places that
often are labeled makerspaces, such as libraries, classrooms, museums,
homes, and garages. But it doesn’t have to be a labeled space.
Innovation and creating
can happen on a table
in a classroom. Some
makerspaces might have
the newest technological
toys such as a 3-D printer
or laser cutter, but this is also
not necessary. The focus in this
design learning is not on the tools
but instead on the process.
This approach is related to the constructivist
and constructionist design work that focuses on engaging
participants in learning content and process. This work provides
students the opportunity to experience the hands-on intersection of
critical thinking, engineering, computer science, circuitry, art, math,
technology, and innovation.
In my experiences, I have witnessed reluctant students engaged
and as successful as any other learners. They often have unique and
innovative perspectives and solutions to the design task at hand.
Classroom teachers are excited to see their students’ involvement
and investment in this learning as well and comment on how these
activities develop problem-solving and collaborative skills.
Students appear to think of themselves as capable thinkers and
makers. In working with the teachers and students, I offer ideas and
resource lists for teachers to follow up with and also give students
sources where they can get materials for continued making. It is
amazing how contagious learning through making can be for everyone!
There are many ways to
do this in a low-tech, low-budget
an easy-access on-ramp to
making. Two books I would
highly recommend to get
you started are:
- Invent to Learn: Making,
Tinkering, and Engineering in the
Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez
and Gary Stager, PhD
- The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich
I have also used some Pitsco products that lend themselves to the
iterative design and engineering process. One of the students’ favorite
projects is the Straw Rocket Launcher; students redesign their rockets
over and over trying to improve the performance. It works well for a
classroom lesson or a special maker event station.
The AP Bottle Racer and launcher is a longer project but also
very engaging to students. By adding parameters such as weight
requirements, students work hard to engineer the best design they
can. Pitsco also carries a timing gate, so students can quantify the
results of their bottle racer and redesign based on numerical data
and then carry out related calculations.
Both of these systems are reusable and portable, so I am able to
take them with me on my travels. I have teachers save
bottles ahead of time, although empty bottles,
axles, wheels, and other building materials are
all available from Pitsco.
Maker education is a fantastic way
to ignite learning in our classrooms and
beyond. The intellectual development
that happens through design thinking and
direct hands-on experience with creating
and tinkering is empowering and something
we should offer all students!