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Danielle Plahs, Stephanie Flores-Koulish, Ph.D.

Integrating Makerspaces into the Classroom

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Teaching students skills through creating, building and innovating independently is known as Makerspace education. The professional development I plan to implement in my school is helping teachers to incorporate makerspaces into their classrooms, also known as the “Maker Movement.” A Makerspace is a physical space filled with resources and materials where children and adults can go to build, create, invent, problem solve and much more. One researcher defines a makerspace as a designated area with a variety of materials and technology tools, that allows people of all ages to participate in the creation, design, and building of new projects and technologies (Blackley, Sheffield, Maynard, Koul, & Walkerin, 2017). Makerspaces are dedicated to promoting creativity and discovery through a variety of materials. This relatively new idea is being used in schools, libraries, and even building facilities nationwide. The Maker Movement is aimed at promoting 21st Century Learning skills by giving children an opportunity to be builders, inventors, and problem solvers at school. The goal of this professional development is to introduce faculty in my school to an authentic way of teaching and learning that they can use in their classrooms to enhance their classroom environment, improve student engagement, and meet the needs of today’s 21st century learners.

Maker education incorporates activities that allow students to explore, invent, or problem solve using their choice of material. Integrating ‘making’ into the classroom subject matter can engage students in higher-order problem solving through hands-on design, construction, and collaboration. Makerspace activities allow students to use scientific processes and engineering ideas to problem-solve through experimenting and tinkering (Martinez & Stager, 2013). A makerspace consists of materials that can range anywhere from general building materials and recycled materials to more advanced digital or technology tools. Initially, the introduction of these tools might be unnerving for many members on my faculty. Not only does this mean that teachers need to learn how to incorporate makerspace pedagogy into their classrooms, they must first be familiar with the tools to do so! Since many of these tools are relatively new, it is imperative that teachers are given time in trainings to explore the tools. The goal of the Makerspace PD is to educate willing teachers on how to incorporate maker-education tools and ideas as lesson activities, reviews, extensions and/or incentives. Without proper training, facilitators of the makerspaces can deem the maker-education ineffective. If the makerspace is not running properly, it can end up as chaotic and more of play-time than actual knowledge being constructed. Starting with the basics is essential for educators to understand the fundamentals behind the main idea. This would include what a makerspace is and what activities are conducted, a rationale for maker-education and tying it to the curriculum, and then how to run and teach in a makerspace (Oliver, 2016). Spending time having teachers understand the point of a makerspace is important so that they can “buy” into the idea and believe in it as well. I also think it’s important that teachers participate in some maker activities or challenges, so they can think about their own thought process through the activity.

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