I recently took my students into New York City to meet with the team from Buncee. In addition to being an amazing multimedia storytelling tool, Buncee has an incredibly passionate and committed group of people on their team. They spent time talking to our students by starting and running a business, as well as sharing what it is like to work in a coworking space.
This day was not only incredibly amazing and insightful for our students, it was equally as rewarding for me. The companies we met with all work in a collaborative office space called Alley NYC. What I discovered while visiting this space is that…
A startup culture is a maker culture
Perhaps one of the most important lessons I learned at Alley NYC, is the role an inspiring environment can play in helping to create a dynamic community and culture.
So much of what I saw in New York City that day can be applied to our makerspaces. Upon entering the offices at Alley NYC, one cannot help but feed off of the dynamic energy that this inspiring space fosters. A similar energy and spirit should run through our makerspaces.
A question I am frequently asked by schools who have makerspaces is:
How can we get more of our students engaged in our makerspaces?
Many educators feel that their direct instruction is what is needed to engage students in making experiences. While I do believe that there can be a place for some instruction for skill-building in a makerspace, I don't believe it is the only strategy that should be used for engaging our students; nor is teacher-led instruction the only way we can encourage our students to be creative or innovate. Rather than forcing students to make, I think it is up to us as educators to create the conditions to inspire our students to WANT to make.
As a result of so much discussion surrounding this topic, I created and tweeted out a Padlet that asked educators to contribute their ideas for how we can best create the conditions to inspire in our makerspaces. The Padlet received 30 contributions. They are as follows:
- Use lots of growth mindset read-alouds to model the maker mindset
- My makerspace feels like a please-touch museum.
- I remind myself 459 times a day to get out of their way. It's like cultivating a flame, it needs air, space, and room to grow.
- Through library centers which include creation and technology and research skills centers.
- Flexible, collaborative seating/furniture.
- Lots of signage and prompts.
- I make along side with them. Give them the freedom and voice to teach me. Innovators mindset is key. Mistakes are essential to learning.
- Have student maker mentors.
- Fantastic Failures. We discuss learning from mistakes and growth mindset.
- All creations are recognized. Pictures are taken of the creations and put in a running slide show on the TV in the room.
- I give parameters and ideas. We follow the design process to help build ideas and focus.
- Open exploration is key – students create and solve their own challenges.
- Messiness is encouraged. Risks are encouraged.
- Use authentic literature as a springboard into all that is possible.
- By inviting experts into our space to serve as inspiration and mentors.
- Allowing them to respond. Sometimes it's important for others to share their experiences so that risks can be taken through their own choice; writing, typing, taking a picture. #studentchoice #studentvoice
- By letting students know that our makerspace is a safe, comfortable, fun place where a kid can be a kid!
- Student collaboration with other schools/makerspaces.
- Show them you care; and you will inspire!
- Let students think about what they will create, explore, take risks and create something different! It's okay to not get it right away!
- BY LISTENING.
- Sometimes it's important for others to share their experiences so that risks can be taken.
- My students are learning and struggling through making mistakes, going back and figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it?
- Storing materials in kid-friendly ways.
- Preserve the integrity and understand the value of informal learning.
- Get them to try new things.
- We created a 'Maker Buffet' to allow our 2nd graders to sample each space for week. Then after, they will be able to choose where they want to go to find their passion and create.
- Rather than teacher, consider calling yourself something else, such as 'Dream Consultants' like @techshop.
- Setup, manage and run your makerspace like a startup.
- Ask questions to promote inquiry.
Please contribute to our Padlet to add to this already powerful list of the ways in which we can best inspire our students to engage with our makerspaces and to provide that spark so many of them would benefit from.