Teachers often have questions about how makerspaces fit into the K-12 curriculum. Here are a few questions and answers from a conversation this week.
How can a makerspace be integrated into a classroom teachers math and science curriculum?
Very easily but it will vary on your definition of a makerspace, we have a couple of case studies we are working on with our STEM Connections Lab integration. One is anidea we call a Shoebox Makerspace – the Aurora 6th grade is integrating the maker’s concept into science classes every Friday. All projects, materials, and tools have to fit inside of their own shoebox. The second is a high school math course at York called Technical Math. It is for seniors that don’t need upper level math but don’t want to not have math the entire year before going to college/trade school. The concept also integrates a makerspace Friday using math concepts in their making! Making is just the implementation of math and science without the recipes we find in a science book. The implementation of these concepts are what we associate with our workforce skills – the actual “doing” of math. It is amazing to watch the math and science concepts that are being learned with no instruction – and there are ways to guide the makerspace projects to address those desired concepts. We also have levels of integration from single projects, special events, units, curriculum, competition, and the full blown makerspace. See the attached pyramid.
How do students decide what they are going to be working on? Do they make their own plans, do teachers help with this direction, set outcomes, what parameters are there?
For the most part you will have to teach students to make. Actually you have to un-teach them to need step by step instructions. In a classroom setting we start by teaching techniques and then let students make using those techniques (how to roll paper). Then we move on to specific materials. Them to specific math concepts – for example paper towers to teach metric conversions and measurement. Them we go with themes and finally they come up with their own projects and plans.
When do students use the space? (during class or a pull-out or a completely separate time)
This will vary based on the space. One of the questions floating around yesterday was “what defines a makerspace?” I don’t think there was ever a great answer. My philosophy is that making is a mentality not a space – makers will make with anything given the opportunity. With that said for our lab we see it used in many different forms – specific classes use it every day during physical science for example. Everyone in the lab for the entire class period but working on their own projects. We also have classes that take kids there once then give them the option to work on that type of project or another project. Sometimes it is made available during study halls or before/after school as well. What we find most often is a core group of classes using it every day and then the rest of the time it is filled up by random classes checking it out. The shoebox and the math class make every Friday.
Do ALL students have access to the space? How do you organize access? If not everyone gets to use it how do you determine who does?
Hopefully schools will address this before they even set up their makerspace. If you are think of a lab type makerspace then access will become a problem – especially with tools that take some time like the 3D printer. It is my goal to have schools use our lab to determine the best way to implement the specific tools they will get the most use out of – like buying three 3D printers instead of all 10 of my lab stations or getting a lab pack of the electronic kits instead of 2. In our lab it is first com first served but we have some ways to “cut in line” – for example if you have designed your own 3D part from scratch you get the printer ahead of someone that downloaded a part from thingiverse.com This will settle into a routine if you have a permanent space at the school. I think the thing that sets apart a makerspace is that the less organized/coordinated it is the more organic the learning becomes. Crowds create collaboration, waiting lines create other ways to accomplish the task. Intrinsic motivation creates authentic learning.