Making School Great with Makerspaces!

Posted by Heather Van Looy on 12/7/2021 1:00:00 PM

Written by Ann Marie Carrier @AMCarrierEdTech

Staring out the window or deeply entranced in their own thoughts, our students’ minds often drift from the content we teach to thoughts about their own questions and creative ideas about what the world could be and look like if they could be free to truly explore, build and design whatever came to mind.  School Maker Spaces can be a place for our students to explore these ideas. 

Lazer etched projects

Thanks to the support of the Sandy Springs Foundation, Riverwood International Charter School students have a place to do just that!  Recently reopened after the long silent transition through Covid, our library Maker Space now houses a variety of equipment where students can begin to explore some of their greatest ideas and help to bring their designs to life.  Housing several 3D printers, a Glowforge laser cutter, Oculus Virtual Reality Goggles, multiple sewing machines, an embroidery machine, various robotics kits, a green screen, computer coding devices like Kano Kits and Raspberry Pi, jewelry making equipment, a Cricut Vinyl Cutter, poster makers, t-shirt press, button makers and a variety of crafting & art materials amongst others, this Maker Space is maxed out for student engagement with the Engineering design process!  The enticing materials hook students into trying new things and designing anything and everything that they can imagine.  There is even a recording studio where music lovers can begin to write and record their own beats while being mixed with tracks of other students to create a truly unique and collaborative sound across class periods.

Collage of maker space equipment

Having recently been given the opportunity to rebuild this space as a place for students to investigate Maker Education and the ability to design, I was inspired to provide kids with a place where they would have an opportunity to try tools and machinery many of us may have heard about but never had an opportunity to see or try. Exposure to tools that encourage design thinking, engineering, and problem solving teach students the 21st century skills they need for successful careers in various technologies.  Proficiency with the tools could even lead to potential job opportunities even without a post-secondary education.

Students making things in the maker space

Housed in the media center and supported by peer assistants during the school day, all students may come to build, create, and explore.  They can come work on a class project or create their own designs after completing other class assignments. Students can also come to the maker space at lunch and after school two days a week until 4:30 pm. The peer assistants supporting the design lab have worked hard to organize the space and learn the equipment so they can help others to find the materials and provide suggestions to help their peers bring their ideas to life.  All students can learn more about the various pieces of Maker Space equipment and what they can do by visiting our student generated website, which includes a Maker Space Pinterest Board for design inspiration.  Students can even review available Nearpod lessons to learn the appropriate steps to earn badges giving them the ability to use higher level equipment on their own.

Raider Makerspace Pinterest

Click here to follow Raider Makerspace on Pinterest

Here at Riverwood, we love the idea of a shared space where our students can come together to learn from each other, to collaborate, and to gain unique skills as they learn more about themselves, their abilities and what we all know they are capable of when they try new things.  We are learning and developing ideas together as our space progresses and student interest increases.  As students become more proficient with the various equipment, we are excited to maximize the learning and see our vision for the maker space come to fruition.

Maker Menu of Suggested  Activities

As teachers, we aim to inspire our students to be everything they can be.  However, our own comfort level, technological abilities, and content knowledge may limit the variety of opportunities we present in the classroom.  School makerspaces provide a place where our students can thrive in other areas they may never have been exposed to in the regular classroom setting.  This provides students with additional avenues to personalize their learning experience and have agency over their own learning.   We are looking forward to seeing students shine and express their voice in the maker space where they have access to the materials, resources, and support to investigate various technologies and tools that other classes are just not capable of integrating with limited time.  What would you do and create if you had no limits? None of us is too old to try but most of us have never had the opportunity.  Consider how a Maker Space or a new technology activity could transform learning for your students.  How might incorporating innovative instructional technology practices impact their skills, abilities, and career potential, while giving them a chance to break outside of the box.  Let’s let our kids be kids, explore their maker potential and wildest imaginations – they’ll be glad you did!