The first chapter in my newest book, The Kickstart Guide to Making GREAT Makerspaces, focuses on the seven attributes of a GREAT makerspace. One of those attributes is ‘Differentiated’ with the idea being that makerspaces effectively meet the needs of mixed-ability learners, allowing students of all abilities to participate, experience success and ultimately flourish.
One of the ways I suggest differentiating in a makerspace is to allow students the opportunity to take ownership over the process they use for making and creating. Many educators integrate the process of Design Thinking (or other similar models) into their makerspaces as a tool to guide students through the process of making and creating.
The Stanford d-School highlights the importance of iteration and making the process your own. In my book, I suggest several ways in which educators can approach this. One of the ways is to help students uncover and articulate the process they use to make and create through questioning.
In our makerspace, we recently had a student, Alisa, embark on a maker journey and due to the open-ended nature of our makerspace, she was led down unexpected paths. Initially, Alisa was drawn to our makerspace thanks to a challenge she saw posted in our space, based on the television show, Flea Market Flip.
In the process of refurbishing the old cabinet in this challenge, Alisa needed some wood. Our principal alerted us that the school had many old wood pallets, so immediately Alisa, with the help of some friends, ran down to get them. In taking apart the pallets, Alisa's project changed directions and she decided that before she refurbished the cabinet, she wanted to create something out of the pallet wood, which she had never done before. She decided she wanted to create a shelf. After some initial sketches, Alisa began building, sanding and painting. In the end, she ended up with a beautiful shelf, that is now hanging on a wall in a house, her first experience with entrepreneurship.
Alisa has not stopped at just that shelf. She continues to build and create out of wood, as well as beginning to explore other themes in our makerspace, such as computer science. Although Alisa was familar with the process of Design Thinking, she indicated to me that it really was her own process for making and creating that she has followed. Through the questioning strategies outlined in my book, I have begun to work with Alisa in helping her uncover and articulate her process. My questions and her answers below:
What did you make/do?
I made hanging wood pallet art with floating shelves and hooks to hang jackets.
What did you do first, second, and so on?
First, I got an idea by looking on Pinterest and social media, kind of getting a feel for what people have done. After finding something that looked interesting, I drew it out. After receiving a wood pallet, I took it apart and placed it in the order that I had drawn out. I then took the nails I pulled out of the pallet and nailed the boards together in the formation I made. I then took old paint samples and painted the boards, using different shades and mixing to create a distressed look. By using a paper towel I was able to smudge to paint out and thinned it over the existing colors. I then tried to cut wood and create shelves, but I realized that they did not fit slack to the wood like I wanted to. So I came up with the idea of floating shelves, and cut simple wooden planks. Then I drilled 4 holes and fed a piece of twine into each hole and tied it together at the top. I nailed a nail (also from the pallet) onto the top and placed the twine onto it. I then took new hooks and scratched them with sandpaper to give the rough look. I then screwed them in. And that was all.
What materials did you use/work with?
The materials I used consisted of a wood pallet, screws, hooks, twine, paint samples, acrylic paint, nails (from the wood pallet) and plywood. I also used a drill (to drill holes and put in screws), a paintbrush (to apply paint), a ruler, and a pencil. I used simple items and made sure to waste as little as possible.
What surprised you during the process?
The part that surprised me the most during the process, was how well it came out. Being that I was just experimenting the whole time, I was expecting it to come out way worse. But finding someone who wanted it and would put it to use, that made me the most surprised of all.
What frustrations did you experience, and what did you do about them?
I don't believe I got too frustrated with anything, but there were drawbacks. Design flaws that forced me to go back and change something, was a bother. Or even having to wait for something to be done (that was out of my control), took up time.
What steps did you use this time that you might want to use again?
Realizing what you have and what you can do with them is important and I will use in all of my future crafts. I will continue to ask questions and use my resources wisely to get the job done. Another thing to realize is that the ideas you have in the beginning will (most likely) not be part of the finished product, so adjusting is a necessity.
What steps do you think you want to try next time you make something?
Steps I would like to try next time to make something would have to be different style of distressed wood. Also different hooks, maybe even painting a quote onto the wood. Another idea is turning the wood horizontally and trying something that way.
Following her own process for making and creating has provided Alisa with a flexible, self-directed learning experience that has empowered and enhanced her unique abilities. In the words of Alisa,
It's all about laying down the first brick, then everything else just falls into place…