Makerspaces - Yes You Can! 
Recently, I have been reading about makerspaces and have become truly interested in the various ways schools are using them.  Makerspaces, in case you didn't know,  are those designated areas in schools, classrooms, libraries and labs where people can gather to work on projects while sharing equipment, tools, ideas and knowledge.  Some makerspaces are equipped only with craft type items such as glue, paper, scissors and pencils, while others are filled with technology, i.e. 3D printers, laser cutters, Lego kits and computers.  It really doesn't matter what is in the makerspace, as such areas should fit the needs and requirements of the students using the spaces.

If a makerspace is something you've been thinking about including in your school or classroom, well think no more for now is the time to jump in with both feet.  Below are a few tips I have picked up during my readings, from some conference visits and while visiting schools.

1. Determine how your makerspace will be used - Do you plan to have a school wide makerspace in your lab or library, or do you want to start smaller and include one in a corner of your room?  The items to be placed in a classroom makerspace will vary greatly from those that will be included in a school-wide makerspace.  Make this determination before you start anything else.

2.  Locate the best spot - For a classroom, finding the best location for a makerspace may be a bit tricky.  You need a table and chairs, so look for a corner of the room where students can spread out and make a little mess.  For a school-wide area, get input from your fellow teachers and staff.  Determine which room would be most conducive for collaboration, a room that can be accessed by all.

3.  Create a wish list - What items do you need for your makerspace?  Ask for help with this.  Often teachers in your building have extra glue, markers or cardboard that they would give to you.  Send your wish list home with students asking for support not only for supplies, but volunteering of time to help, to teach a craft or to share a skill.  Include the community by asking for their support as well.  Many businesses will often donate items that could be used in your makerspace.  Contact vendors and offer to pilot new products such as recording systems, books and supplies.  A makerspace can be created on a shoestring budget with a little imagination.

4. Find time for using the makerspace - In a classroom, your makerspace can be included during center time if you do a type of rotational series during the day.  The space can also be a stand alone center in the room that students can visit when finished with work, as a reward for good behavior or as a project center when children are working on assignments.  If your makerspace will be located in a room such as a lab or library for school-wide use, it should be made available all day long. There may come a point when an Office 365 shared calendar may be needed to sign up for time in the school makerspace, but that is a good problem and one that could be addressed at a later point in the integration.

5.  Use the makerspace time wisely - I found this issue listed in several articles that I read.  How do I make sure students are learning during makerspace time?  Planning is key to addressing this question.  Having a goal in mind during the makerspace time is important.  Even if the child is visiting the space as a reward, there should be a note or plan or some type of directions from which the child can choose.  Monitoring of the school-wide makerspace is another concern, but one that school's would need to address on an individual basis.  

6.  Keep it neat - Be sure to include containers in your wish list or list of necessary makerspace items.  Bins, totes, nice boxes and baskets are essential items for all makerspaces.  Assign the makerspace cleanup as a classroom job or task for your students or as one of the leadership tasks for students in the school.  You may even want to post a few simple rules at your makerspaces that include cleanup and keeping the space orderly and neat.

Below are some book titles and guides that will give you some inspiration and support.
  • The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich
  • Making is Connecting by David Gauntlett
  • Tinkering:  Kids Learn by Making Stuff by Curt Gabrielson
  • MakingMakes: Kids Tools and the Future of Innovation by AnnMarie Thomas

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