Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Doors to Creativity Are Open

Our Makerspace journey began last year when I started learning about makerspaces at conferences I attended, from books I read, people I talked with and schools that I visited. To be honest, my first thought was that it was a lot of talk about arts and crafts and seemed like the shop classes that I attended back in middle school. But the more I learned, the more I realized that it was much more than that. Makerspace is a mindset. It’s about encouraging our students to create, to tinker, to design, to invent, and to innovate. It’s about not being afraid to fail and to take risks. It’s using what you have to make something new and different. Today’s students may be growing up in a world of technology, but too often they are passive consumers of information. They are not active participants who are producing or creating new content. They live in a world that is very scheduled and prescribed both at home and at school. For various reasons, many don’t have opportunities to build, create, and make things at home. Even the rigidity and rigor of the school curriculum has been prohibitive in the free exploration of creation.

This couldn’t have been more evident than when the doors of our makerspace were opened to students this week. Prior to entering the makerspace, I had a discussion with students about creativity and innovation. We also discussed WHY we have a makerspace and that although we have a makerspace room, the makerspace mindset should trickle back into their classrooms. There were multiple stations set up throughout the room and the students excitedly made decisions as to where they wanted to go first.

It was so interesting to watch. There was so much enthusiasm throughout the room that it was electric. They were excited. They were like hungry little puppies that couldn’t get enough to eat as they each immersed themselves into a station of their choice. In some cases, it was as if the students had never been given an opportunity to simply create something with no boundaries. They were hungry and eager for more. As I walked around the room observing and listening to the students, I was as energized as they were. Some things I overheard:
  • This is paradise!
  • This is the best library day ever!
  • I’ve never colored on a table before. This is awesome!
  • I love the makerspace because nobody judges what you make.
  • It’s a judge free zone!
  • Creativity is like your mind spilling over onto paper!
This week’s orientation into the makerspace is only the beginning. It will continue to grow and evolve. It will house static stations like Legos, KNEX and Ozobot Robots, but it will also have dynamic stations that will propose challenges to the students and change on a regular basis. You know you’ve got a good thing going for kids when the biggest problem of the week was getting the students to leave the makerspace when their class was done!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Our Maker Journey

The creation of our makerspace has really been a journey in and of itself. What started with a few ideas has grown into dozens. With every paint project completed, a new one is created. One of the most exciting, yet unexpected things that keeps happening while making this space, is the unsolicited help from our community. People have shared ideas, they’ve helped create displays, they’ve helped paint, they’ve donated supplies, they’ve built storage boxes, and so much more. Synergy helped build our makerspace and it is still a work in progress. The other exciting thing to happen throughout this whole process has been watching and listening to the mounting enthusiasm that is growing amongst the students. Although they have not been in the room yet because of the ladders and paint supplies, they can catch a glimpse of what is going on from the doorway.

“When do we get to use that room?”
“I can’t wait to go into the LEGO Room!”
“That room doesn’t even look like school!”

This enthusiastic response from the students has been energizing and motivating to get the room done, so that they can start using it to create, tinker and invent! Once the students start utilizing the makerspace, we will create a student led Makerspace Leadership Team to help generate ideas for how we can continually make improvements on it's use.